When it comes to caring for large animals, like the giant short-tail stingrays that call the Two Oceans Aquarium home, it's all hands on deck!

Although short-tail stingrays live in a wide range of water conditions, each animal has individual preferences. When a 160kg living in the Predator Exhibit showed signs that she was not comfortable with the cool water from Table Bay, we made the decision to move her to the I&J Ocean Exhibit, which is heated to mimic the conditions of our Indian Ocean coast.

Rather than dart the animal with a sedative, which would have posed unnecessary health risks to the ray, our divers decided to lure her into a chamber which could then be closed and hoised out by a crane. The stingray had other plans though - and ignored the chamber, instead leading our divers to a shallow part of the exhibit where she could be guided onto a large stretcher and carried out by hand.

Credit: Claire Taylor/Two Oceans Aquarium

The ray spent a few days in an isolated quarantine tank on the Aquarium's roof, where the water temperature could be gradually raised to match the I&J Ocean Exhibit. This whole process was done slowly to avoid stressing the stingray.

Finally, the day of the move arrived and our veterinary team used a water-borne sedative to calm the ray enough for her to again be placed on the stretcher. The whole team then got in on the action and helped carry this heavy lady to her new home.

Credit: Claire Taylor/Two Oceans Aquarium

After a short period of observation to overcome the sedative, check that the ray was uninjured and feed the other animals in the exhibit (so that they would not pester her), it was time to release her into the I&J Ocean Exhibit. She quickly swam over to the other short-tail rays, immediately showing her comfort in these new water conditions by becoming more active and changing to healthier, darker colours.

This ray and the other short-tail rays at the Aquarium came to us as eggs or juveniles that have grown up under our care and respond well to the Aquarists that care for them. Although 160kg is a large animal, this is still a small size for a short-tail stingray - the largest stingray species in the world.

We are pleased to be able to share behind-the-scenes stories like this with you, and look forward to being able to share more stories about our animal care, releases and research.

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