One of the hottest new exhibits at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo is a 20,000 gallon seawater tank filled with 20 stingrays. You’ll find two different species of stingray in this tank: cownose and southern. The cownose stingrays weigh in at around 15 pounds and are more active. When you visit the touch tank in Stingray Bay, they’ll be the ones most likely to swim up to you. The southern stingrays typically hang out at the bottom of the tank and are much larger. The largest among them is Goliath. He’s a 15-year-old male with a wingspan of about 3.5 feet. He also weighs in at around 40 pounds. Female southern stingrays are even larger, usually 2-3 times the size of the males.
Stingrays love to cruise along the bottom of the ocean. They’ll bury themselves in the sand to hide from predators and also to ambush prey. That’s why when you encounter a stingray in the ocean, you’ll usually only see their eyes above the sand. They do have gills on the bottom of their body, but when they’re on the ocean floor, they’re not able to use the gills very well, so they also have openings behind their eyes called spiracles that act as gills.
In the wild, you should never touch a stingray, but here at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo, they’re 100% safe. Their barbs, located at the base of the tail, are trimmed once a month. Barbs are made of keratin, like human hair or fingernails, so it doesn’t hurt the rays.
At the zoo, everyone gets a chance to touch the stingrays. But if you’d like to feed them, there’s a new VIP experience for that. Up to 4 guests can be present in the VIP room to learn more about the stingrays, pet them, and hand-feed them. Just be prepared to get wet!
The Stingray VIP experience is available Sundays-Tuesdays from 1:00-1:30p during the zoo season for ages 6 & up. The cost is $39 per person. You can book your VIP experience here.