Here's what happens when the local dolphins become just a little too accustomed to having humans around. 

The phone-snatching stunt was captured on camera by a group of fishermen in the waters off Whyalla in Australia when a passing pod of dolphins made an unexpected appearance alongside their boat.

The bold behaviour suggests the animals may be used to tasty handouts from boats in the area: when one of the fishermen leans out to film the animals with his phone, a curious dolphin appears to mistake the object for a fishy treat, and leaps out of the water to snatch it. 

Australian laws designed to protect marine mammals from harassment and injury require boats to keep their distance, but in this case at least, it looks as if the fishermen did not instigate the encounter, with the dolphins following the boat instead.

Still, the video does highlight the potentially negative consequences of habituation: when wild animals become unnaturally tolerant of human presence over time, which is something marine mammal experts are particularly concerned about when it comes to Whyalla’s "friendly" dolphin populations.

Earlier this year, two local researchers monitored dolphins in the area and noted that interactions with humans were disrupting the animals' natural behaviour, with individuals often seen "begging" for food. 

“Begging is not normal dolphin behaviour and we witnessed this particular behaviour occurring frequently,” Dr Verné Dove told Whyalla News back in April.

Dove also warned that aside from disrupting normal behavioural patterns, such encounters were putting the animals at risk of injury by boat propellers, entanglement in fishing gear and exposure to inappropriate food.

Top header image: Nancy Magnusson, Flickr

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