Around 8:40 am, Wednesday, two zoo keepers were holding a cow-nosed stingray out of the water as a part of a medical procedure, Zoo officials said.
- One of the zookeeper injured when the cow-nosed stingray stung him while handling the abdomen.
- Zoo staff responded and followed safety protocols.
The zookeeper injured was transported to a medical facility to be monitored. EMSA also responded to the zoo as a precaution. The incident occurred before the zoo opened for the day.
According to Tara Henson, a spokeswoman for the zoo. “When you work with wild animals, things can happen, but we have professionals, but we’ll be reviewing process to see if we need to do anything differently and better to ensure that she wouldn’t have gotten injured.”
Officials say this is the first time a zoo keeper has been stung by a stingray at the Oklahoma City Zoo.
“Any one of us could have some sort of reaction to something like that,” said Henson. “We err on the side of caution. She did not want to go to the hospital and we said, ‘well you’re going to.’”
Officials stressed that the incident is not something that could happen to a guest during contact and feeding while the cow-nosed stingrays are in the pool.
“When you’re here putting your hands in the water, your family is safe,” said Henson. “When you’re feeding the cow-nosed stingrays your family is safe. This occurred because the cow-nosed stingray was out of the water and the zookeeper was positioned just right so it could sting her.”
Stingrays are a group of rays, which are cartilaginous fish related to sharks. They are classified in the suborder Myliobatoidei of the order Myliobatiformes and consist of eight families: Hexatrygonidae (sixgill stingray), Plesiobatidae (deep water stingray), Urolophidae (stingarees), Urotrygonidae (round rays), Dasyatidae (whiptail stingrays), Potamotrygonidae (river stingrays), Gymnuridae (butterfly rays), and Myliobatidae (eagle rays).
Most stingrays have one or more barbed stingers (modified from dermal denticles) on the tail, which are used exclusively in self-defense. The stinger may reach a length of approximately 35cm (14in), and its underside has two grooves with venom glands . The stinger is covered with a thin layer of skin, the integumentary sheath, in which the venom is concentrated. A few members of the suborder, such as the manta and porcupine rays, do not have stingers.
The flattened bodies of stingrays allow them to effectively conceal themselves in their environment. Stingrays do this by agitating the sand and hiding beneath it. Because their eyes are on top of their bodies and their mouths on the undersides, stingrays cannot see their prey; instead, they use smell and electroreceptors (ampullae of Lorenzini) similar to those of sharks. Stingrays feed primarily on molluscs,crustaceans, and occasionally on small fish. Some stingrays’ mouths contain two powerful, shell-crushing plates, while other species only have sucking mouthparts. Stingrays settle on the bottom while feeding, often leaving only their eyes and tail visible. Coral reefs are favorite feeding grounds and are usually shared with sharks during high tide.IMAGE/Mr.T in DC/Flickr