Stingrays in St Louis Zoo

May 14, 2009

I still manage to get news from the daily newspaper rather than the Internet, and from the St Louis Post-Dispatch that there would be a Stingray exhibit at the Zoo…and when I went there last week, it hadn’t yet opened….so yesterday, I looked it up on the net and the exhibit was on…and it was free for the first hour of the Zoo’s opening.

So I decided to combine the Zoo visit with my morning paper-buying and walk…..and when I reached the Zoo, I realized that though the Zoo allowed me to go inside, it would technically be open only at 9, and I had an hour, in which I wandered around, read the newspaper, and returned…to find that already, there was quite a queue!

Here’s the signboard about the Southern Stingray:

120509 southern stingray

The one about the Cownose Stingray:

cownose stingray 120509

I enjoyed this signboard with its title being a neat pun on "Gray's Anatomy", which, apart from being a medical book, is also the name of a hit TV medical series: ray's anatomy 120509 This board explains how the Stingrays have been "manicured" to render them safe for visitors: stingless rays 120509 sten I am not sure about this. Obviously, there will be two schools of thought: 1. Make the stingrays harmless to humans. They are intelligent creatures and learn well, so train them to be unafraid of humans, so that in a travelling zoo exhibit, lots of people can see them, touch them (more about this later) and get to like them rather than fearing them after the Steve Irwin incident. 2. Don't do anything to the stingrays, don't train fact, don't capture them or bring them to the zoos. Take video footage of them in the wild, and show that, instead. Alas, I can see the merits of both schools of thought. Just imagine, if these people had not taken such immense trouble with these creatures, where and how on earth would I ever get the opportunity of touching a stingray, and feeling its velvety body? Or realizing that stingrays are pretty smart creatures, and not ill-disposed to anyone unless threatened? I *did* really like the fact that the exhibit made sure that visitors had a very interactive experience instead of just taking a cursory glance and going off. Visitors were told clearly that the stingrays were swimming in saline water, and each visitor was made to wash hes hands up to the elbows; then we could put our arms into the pool, with our palms flat, and touch the rays as they glided smoothly and beautifully past: touching the rays 120509 The delight on the visitors' faces was quite clear to see: families enjoying the rays 120509 The instructions about holding the hands flat and not scratching the stingrays was repeated often, and loudly, by some of the stingray experts: 120509 stlzoo stingray expert What I also liked was the imagination and the humour that laced the exhibit. Here's one expert's bag: stingray purse 120509 And the announcement for visitors who were bending over the pool were: "Those of you who have loose things in their pockets, or glasses/sunshades, do be careful to hold on to them. Stingrays do not accessorize." A lot of remarks like this made me laugh a lot!

So here’s one of the beauties…so aerodynamically smooth and graceful….

stingray 120509

Will add the video of each type of stingray gliding past, and update my post later…

Update: Here’s the video:

Lovely, isn’t it?