(TMU) – For much of the world, it’s been weeks if not months since we entered lockdown. And while humanity hitting the “pause” button has seemingly been a blessing in disguise for some creatures who have used the respite to enjoy clean air and water for the first time in decades, other animals actually may miss us human beings.
Such appears to be the case for the dolphins who hang out at Tin Can Bay in Queensland, Australia, where the sea mammals have been lining up to bring gifts ashore – “apparently because they’re missing interaction with humans,” according to a report by 7News.
Barnacles Café and Dolphin feeding is typically filled with tourists throughout the year, and offers visitors the priceless opportunity to interact with wild humpback dolphins. And the wild dolphins do enjoy the opportunity to be treated to fresh fish by happy visitors.
But Australia began imposing strict quarantine rules in the middle of March, visitors stopped lining up to feed the animals – and the humpbacks may be worried about the sudden disappearance of their land-loving bipedal friends.
According to Barnacles, the local dolphin pod has been presenting gifts to staff at the café, ranging from barnacle-encrusted bottles to sea sponges and fragments of coral.
A post on the cafe’s Facebook page read:
“The pod has been bringing us regular gifts, showing us how much they’re missing the public interaction and attention. They are definitely missing you all.”
The pod has been bringing us regular gifts, showing us how much they’re missing the public interaction and attention☹️…
A volunteer at the café told reporters from ABC that while the pod has displayed this behavior in the past, the gestures have been increasing since the venue shut down.
For dolphin expert and University of Queensland PhD student Barry McGovern, the explanation for the dolphins’ behavior could be far more mundane.
“Nothing surprises me with dolphins and their behavior anymore. They do everything – they use tools, they have culture, they have something similar to names in signature whistles.”
In general, dolphins are one of the most intelligent animal species on the planet. From their playful nature to their sociability and friendliness toward humans, as well as their legendary interactions with seafarers, dolphins have inspired the adoration of humans since time immemorial.
Increasingly, human researchers are discovering that dolphins display skills and sophistication previously attributed only to the human species, including strong problem solving capabilities and a complex system of communication.
However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that we should project our own feelings of longing borne of the quarantine onto ocean mammals. McGovern explained:
“In all likelihood, they probably don’t miss humans per se … They probably miss a free meal and the routine.”
Dolphins are also generally prone to “play-like behavior.” McGovern said:
“They often play with bits of weed and coral and all sorts of things and just leave it on their rostrum (nose).They’re used to getting fed now, so they’re used to humans coming in. When it’s not happening, maybe it’s just out of boredom.”
Since coronavirus restrictions are being phased out, Barnacles Café has reopened and they have resumed dolphin feeding activities.