Zoo Tampa investigates sudden death of 12 stingrays in touch tank

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Officials with Zoo Tampa are combing for clues after a dozen stingrays turned up dead. The touch tank troubles happened suddenly.

Investigators say the window between life and death was less than an hour.

Once home to a dozen stingrays inside of a Tampa zoo, a stingray tank sat empty Friday morning, closed to the public as an investigation remains open into the death of all 12 that were in the touch tank.

The zoo’s veterinarian Dr. Cynthia Stringfield said it began Thursday morning.

“The animal health team received a call from the animal care team that the stingrays didn’t look right. They weren’t being active, they weren’t coming over for food,” Stringfield said.

The veterinarian team that responded realized the rays were dead.

“We tried pulling them out, and seeing if anyone was still alive, and see if there was anything we could do, but it was very, very sudden,” Stringfield said.

So sudden, that when piecing together a timeline, they realized the window between life and death was less than an hour.

“They were checked and cared for first thing in the morning, and they were all fine. So that is the other really strange thing,” Stringfield said.

Necropsies were done on all 12 rays, preliminary results haven’t pinpointed a cause of death just yet.

“We suspect it’s water related. It’s not common for all the animal group to die all of a sudden at the same time,” Stringfield said. “We always have to look at the environment, no matter what species it is.”

And who else was in that environment.

Stringfield said the zoo was open, and visitors were at the exhibit.

“That’s the other thing we’re trying to piece together is who was in here and what time was that, and that sort of thing,” she said.

There are no security cameras around due to attendants on hand keeping a watchful eye.

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