Dolphins may not have opposable thumbs, but at least they're smart enough to find someone who does. In a new video filmed off the west coast of Hawaii, a lone bottlenose dolphin approaches several divers and persistently swims around them, revealing that it's caught in fishing lines. It then waits as one of the divers removes the hook and uses scissors to cut the lines, allowing the animal to finally swim away in apparent relief.
The divers were on a tour Jan. 11 near Kona, on Hawaii's Big Island, where they had gathered for a nighttime swim with manta rays. It's not unusual to see dolphins in the area, although they don't typically travel alone, tour guide Keller Laros tells NBC News. He worried something was wrong as the dolphin circled by repeatedly, and his suspicions were soon confirmed when he noticed a fishing line hooked into its fin. He gestured with his hand for the dolphin to come closer, and it quickly obliged.
"I said, 'come here,' and he swam right up to me," Laros says. "I put my hand out and I was able to get the fishing hook out of his left pectoral fin. The fishing line came from his mouth down through the hook in the left pectoral fin, and then was wrapped all the way around the pectoral fin and it trailed off down the side of the animal."
The dolphin had to surface for air once during the rescue, but it returned so Laros could finish the job. Its presumed foresight, bravery and patience throughout the ordeal impressed the veteran diver, who says the video provides further evidence of dolphin intelligence. "It's a huge thrill to be able to help an animal that clearly knows what's going on," he tells NBC. "He made the effort to come to us. ... The dolphin is really intelligent. It's a relationship. He came to us because he had a problem."
The rescue was recorded by videographer Martina Wing, who tells the BBC it was a "mind-blowing" experience. Her eight-minute YouTube clip already has nearly 1 million views in its first 10 days online — no small feat for a video of that length. The whole thing is worth seeing, but if you're short on time, here's an abridged, three-minute version:
And here's the full-length video:
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