The Department of Environment released four stingrays from Dolphin Discovery back to their home at the Sandbar on Monday morning.
In an operation that lasted about 90 minutes, the Department of Environment staff, with the help of handlers at the dolphinarium, transferred each stingray from a tank at the West Bay tourist attraction onto a wheelbarrow, then into plastic tubs on the back of a truck which was driven to Morgan’s Harbour where the rays were placed into a water-filled circular tank on a DoE boat and finally released into the sea at the Sandbar.
Director of Environment Gina Ebanks-Petrie said she was happy the stingrays had been released, but was disappointed that six other rays at Dolphin Discovery were not being freed.
“It went really well,” Ms Ebanks-Petrie said. “Moving the rays from Dolphin Discovery, and [Dolphin Discovery staff] did help us get the rays, and the transport went seamlessly.”
She added: “We want the other six to be released as well but we continue to work with them and hopefully we can get the best result for the rays.”
A visiting marine veterinarian reported the presence of the rays at Dolphin Discovery to conservationist Guy Harvey last month, who alerted the Department of Environment. When DoE staff scanned the 10 rays, they found that four of them – two males and two females – had been tagged in the Sandbar in January as part of a census. When researchers returned to the Sandbar in July to carry out another census, they found just 57 rays – four fewer than in January.
Dolphin Discovery took possession of the four stingray in March and April when fishermen swapped them for bait at the facility.
For more on this story, read Tuesday’s Caymanian Compass.