Dolphins leave ‘gifts’ while missing human interaction during lockdown

Dolphins in Queensland have been bringing ashore “gifts” from the sea — and volunteers say it might be a sign they’re missing human interaction while coronavirus restrictions keep visitors away.

People usually line up to feed the school of humpback dolphins at the Barnacles Cafe & Dolphin Feeding at Tin Can Bay, Queensland — but the venue has been closed for weeks.

Now, volunteers at the cafe say the dolphins are showing an unusual, very generous, new behaviour.

“The pod has been bringing us regular gifts, showing us how much they’re missing the public interaction and attention,” said a post on the cafe’s Facebook page Monday.

“They are definitely missing you all.”

The treasures include sea sponges, barnacle-encrusted bottles and pieces of coral.

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A volunteer told the ABC the marine creatures have displayed that behaviour before, but it has increased since the venue’s closure.

Barry McGovern, an expert in dolphin behaviour, told it’s possible the dolphins are trying to express that they miss humans, but it’s unlikely.

“Nothing surprises me with dolphins and their behaviour anymore,” McGovern, a University of Queensland PhD student, told the outlet.

“They do everything — they use tools, they have culture, they have something similar to names in signature whistles,” McGovern said.

“In all likelihood, they probably don’t miss humans per se. They probably miss a free meal and the routine.”

They might be displaying a “play-like behaviour,” or just acting “out of boredom,” he said.

Like many food outlets, Barnacles Cafe & Dolphin Feeding have only recently reopened to the public as restrictions are slowly eased across Australia.

States and territories have been easing restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings and business, but border control remains tight.

NSW and ACT borders have reopened, while all other state borders remain closed.

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