Mass deaths at zoo: Stingrays Die Chicago

Published: July 14, 2015

Mass deaths at zoo: Stingrays Die Chicago, A system that monitors the habitat’s temperature, ozone and oxygen levels went off about 1:45 p.m. Friday. A 24-hour manager was automatically alerted through his phone and responded to the exhibit, Zeigler said.

The manager was met at the tank by the zoo’s veterinary staff and animal care unit. The staff noticed that the stingrays were behaving oddly and began working to get the tank’s oxygen levels back to normal, Zeigler said. They also closed the exhibit, escorting visitors from the area.

An air bubbler that releases pure oxygen was added to the holding pool, followed by submerged air pumps to create a fountain effect. Then a large oxygen pump was placed in the pool. Oxygen levels were restored in about 20 minutes from the alarm sounding, Zeigler said.

Despite the staff’s efforts, four southern stingrays and 50 cownose rays died, the zoo said. All of the animals were born in captivity, Zeigler said.

Most of the deaths occurred between 3 and 4:30 p.m. Friday, but several rays died later in the evening, zoo officials said.

“We are devastated by the tragic loss of these animals,” Zeigler said. “Our staff did everything possible to try and save the animals, but the situation could not be reversed.”

The stingrays were in a shallow saltwater pool that allowed guests to touch and feed the animals. The oblong-shaped pool is about 80-by-26 feet long and 3 feet deep, Zeigler said.

The Chicago Zoological Society has decided to close the exhibit, which has been at the zoo since 2007, for the rest of the summer.

In 2008, the zoo lost 19 stingrays when a heater unit malfunctioned, spiking water temperatures by about 10 degrees. Fourteen rays, eight sharks and three horseshoe crabs survived.

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