Animals are adorable when they bring gifts. It just highlights how pure of heart they really are – as well as how clever. Many animals have figured out that if they present people with gifts, they get rewarded with food. And it’s the perfect set up for one dolphin.
Mystique, a humpback dolphin from Queensland, Australia, has come up with a fool-proof system for free food. He comes bearing gifts from the bottom of the sea to a cafe where he then receives fish for his generous efforts.
The 29-year-old dolphin developed the habit after volunteers at the Barnacles Cafe and Dolphin Feeding Center began to indulge in his habit. He would bring them various gifts of bottles, shells, and coral, and they’d give him fish in return.
However, now that there is a lockdown in Australia, he’s finding himself hard-pressed for fish – so he’s trying his gifting habit on with anyone that he sees.
A dolphin feeding volunteer with the center, Lyn McPherson, said Mystique was known to display his “giving behavior” prior to the pandemic. However, since lockdown, his antics at the Tin Can Bay cafe have increased.
Lyn spoke with ABC, explaining how the dolphin brings in gifts in his beak to present for food. And she was quick to note that nobody trained Mystique to do that – the dolphin figured it all out on his own.
As she explained, “He gets under it [and] if he drops it too far out, or we say ‘come on, that’s not good enough’, then he gets underneath it and brings it to us.”
Well played, Mystique!
His gifts vary, and some of the items that he’s brought with him for fish treats are chunks of wood or timber.
Lyn also stated to ABC, “We swear he has a collection waiting to bring to us. Since we’ve been closed to the public he has been doing it more and more. Sometimes he will bring 10, one at a time, and he will line them up as he has to get fish.”
Mystique is one of seven dolphins in the feeding program. So, it comes as no surprise that sometimes Mystiques little buddies will join him to cash in on the rewards.
Lyn said, “There is another male but he doesn’t seem to do it. He goes with him [Mystique] to find them, and then we have to give him a fish as well.”
Normally, the feeding program would have around 200 tourists visiting per day – especially during the summer months. However, that number decreased due to lockdown. The good news is that the center was reopened on the 16th of May, meaning that people will once again be able to visit Mystique and receive his gifts.
Mystique first arrived at the center way back in 1991, when he was a youngster. He arrived with another dolphin believed to be his mother. He’s had quite a colorful life and is easy to spot, according to Lyn, because of his war wounds. Apparently the dolphin is quite the brawler with other males.
Lyn also added, “He also had a bull shark attack in 2007 and is missing a bit of his tail, and a bit of his dorsal fin.”
Looks like Mystique will be making up for lost fish time now that people will be able to visit the cafe once again.
Anastasia is an American writer and journalist living in Dublin, Ireland. Her Twitter is @AnastasiaArell5.