An Australian underwater photographer has described how he rescued a manta ray in a rare encounter after the animal appeared to seek out his help.
Jake Wilton told NBC News that he knew he was witnessing something extraordinary when an almost 10-foot manta ray swam by him recently, and seemed to be trying to get his attention.
"It's very rare for an animal to turn and come back over to you and present themselves," Wilton, who is an experienced diver, said Friday. "So I knew as soon as she started to interact with us, it was something very special."
It was the middle of May, and Wilton had been guiding a group of snorkelers in the Ningaloo Coast reef, off Western Australia.
Large fish hooks were buried in the animal's skin, dangerously close to its right eye, he said.
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He knew he had to act quickly, Wilton said, literally holding his breath to get to the injured animal, which is known to local divers as Freckles.
"I wasn't really thinking about anything else except trying to get them out," he said from Australia over Skype. "I really didn't want to mess it up."