Zoo Employees Investigating After Every Manta Ray Mysteriously Dies Overnight
In a mystery worthy of Ace Ventura, workers at a Florida zoo are trying to figure out why their entire collection of manta rays suddenly died last week.
The 12 stingrays at ZooTampa at Lowry Park in Tampa Bay were discovered in their tank on the morning of May 27, and several days later officials are still none the wiser as to what caused the tragic loss.
According to zoo staff, conditions in the tank were ‘optimal,’ with tests showing no abnormalities or mechanical problems.
The Tampa Bay Times reports staff first noticed the manta rays acting ‘strangely’ when the park opened last Thursday, and by the time they had alerted the zoo’s vets it was too late, with all 12 rays confirmed dead within the hour.
Dr. Cynthia Stringfield, senior vice president of animal health, conservation and education at the zoo, said:
We are emotionally exhausted. [Thursday] was just a horrible day. It’s like a day out of your nightmare, pretty much.
We’re really focused on trying to get to the bottom of what happened.
Internal investigations have shown no signs of foul play, with the 16,000 gallon tank expected to remain closed for the next two months while officials scour it for clues as to what happened.
Stringfield confirmed that while law enforcement was not involved, outside investigators were being brought in to cast ‘fresh eyes’ over the scene. ‘We are broadening things and doing a really meticulous investigation,’ she told the Times.
In a statement posted to Facebook confirming the deaths, ZooTampa said:
It’s with heavy hearts we share that today ZooTampa lost 12 residents of Stingray Bay.
The animal care and veterinary teams are examining all of the mechanical equipment involved and testing the water, all of which indicate optimal water quality and conditions.
It may take several weeks for all of the test results to come in. Stingray Bay is a closed system that’s home only to the rays. It remains closed at this time.
The manta ray exhibit, which housed seven cownose stingrays, four Southern stingrays and one Atlantic stingray, has been one of the most popular parts of ZooTampa since Stingray Bay first opened in 2001, with visitors allowed to get up close to the animals.
The open air tank gave animal lovers direct access to the rays, who would often suck up shrimp from the hands of visitors, and sometimes even let themselves be petted.
Featured Image Credit: ZooTampa at Lowry Park/Facebook
If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected]