Pod Of Dolphins Bringing Ashore ‘Gifts’ From Sea Are Probably Just Hungry, Expert Says

by : Cameron Frew on : 22 May 2020 10:59
Pod Of Dolphins Bringing Ashore 'Gifts' From Sea Are Probably Just Hungry, Expert SaysBev Lambert/Barnacles Cafe & Dolphin Feeding/Facebook

A pod of dolphins in Australia have been bringing little ‘gifts’ ashore for onlookers. It may be cute, but the likelihood is that they’re just hungry. 

Visitors to the Barnacles Cafe & Dolphin Feeding at Tin Can Bay in Queensland are usually lined up ready to give the local humpback dolphins some food and interaction. However, due to the current pandemic, it’s been particularly quiet recently.


However, the café’s staff have noticed that the creatures still swim around the same area, bringing pieces of coral, sea sponges and other items from the sea in lieu of regular play with humans.

Dolphins Tin Can Bay GiftsBev Lambert/Barnacles Cafe & Dolphin Feeding/Facebook

Apparently, the dolphins have been known for this behaviour before, but it’s increased since lockdown measures began. On its Facebook page, the café wrote: ‘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.’

While it’s possible the mammals miss our lovely faces, it’s far more likely they’re simply used to the routine and after some grub when they rock up with a gift.

Dolphins Australia Tin Can Bay GiftsBev Lambert/Barnacles Cafe & Dolphin Feeding/Facebook

Barry McGovern, an expert in dolphin behaviour, explained to 7News

Nothing surprises me with dolphins and their behaviour anymore. They do everything – they use tools, they have culture, they have something similar to names in signature whistles. In all likelihood, they probably don’t miss humans per se. They probably miss a free meal and the routine.

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.

McGovern also acknowledged the possibility that it’s ‘play-like behaviour’. ‘They often play with bits of weed and coral and all sorts of things and just leave it on their rostrum,’ he added.

Dolphins Australia Tin Can Bay 2Bev Lambert/Barnacles Cafe & Dolphin Feeding/Facebook

Elsewhere in the world, zookeepers say animals are feeling lonely without the swathes of people around them every day. Leo Oosterweghel, director of Dublin Zoo, said the residents ‘come up and have a good look because they’re wondering what’s happened to everyone else. They are used to visitors.’

The pod has been bringing us regular gifts, showing us how much they’re missing the public interaction and attention☹️…

Posted by Barnacles Cafe & Dolphin Feeding on Monday, May 18, 2020

Paul Rose, a lecturer in animal behaviour at the University of Exeter, explained that animals, like primates and parrots, rely on our visits and engagement for ‘enrichment’. ‘It is beneficial to the animal’s well-being and quality of life. If this stimulation is not there, then the animals are lacking the enrichment,’ he told BBC News.


Hopefully the local residents and dolphins can get back into a normal routine soon.

It’s okay to not panic about everything going on in the world right now. LADbible and UNILAD’s aim with our campaign, Cutting Through, is to provide our community with facts and stories from the people who are either qualified to comment or have experienced first-hand the situation we’re facing. For more information from the World Health Organization, click here.

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Cameron Frew

After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BJTC-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He's now left his Scottish homelands and taken up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.

Topics: Animals, Australia, Coronavirus, COVID-19, Dolphins, Queensland


Barnacles Cafe & Dolphin Feeding/Facebook and 2 others
  1. Barnacles Cafe & Dolphin Feeding/Facebook


  2. 7News

    Dolphins bring gifts from sea in apparent response to lack of human interaction

  3. BBC News

    Coronavirus: Animals in zoos 'lonely' without visitors