Fish and micro-chips at Living Coasts
Published: 22nd Oct 2013Animal staff at a Devon zoo and aquarium have been tackling a tricky task – micro-chipping venomous stingrays.
So how do you work with patients that are wet, slippery and have venomous tails? Zoo vet Catherine Bergzoll: “We had a team including vets, vet nurses, keepers and volunteers. We caught one ray at a time and placed it in a tub with anaesthetic dissolved in the water. The sedation meant that the rays were calm, making the procedure less stressful for them and safer and easier for us.”
Once the ray was sedated it was transferred onto a wet mat. “One keeper wearing special puncture-resistant gauntlets covered the barb with a piece of half pipe and held it in place while the fish was out of the water.”
The micro-chip was implanted in the muscle on the left hand side of the ray’s wing from above. Once the chip had been inserted, the ray was measured and weighed before being placed in a recovery tub.
Cat explained: “The wing is not very thick, so you have to make sure you don’t go straight through! Because everyone is wet - including the patient - it is a bit tricky to hold things still. And even the youngsters are venomous!”
Living Coasts has seen a bit of a ray baby boom in 2013. Four blue spotted ribbontail rays (Taeniura lymma) were reared between March and July - two male and two female. Two blue spotted rays (Neotrygon kuhlii) were born in May; one male, one female.
In addition to these, the collection is home to four adult blue spotted ribbontail rays - three females and one male – and six blue spotted rays – two females and four males. The adult ribbontails include male Trevor and females Sandy and Stumpy, while among the blue-spotted rays are males Zorro, Boy, Spotty and Sheldon and female Freckles.
The largest ray is some 80 centimetres long with a 30 centimetre disc and weighs about 2.6 kilos. The micro-chips allow staff to identify individuals using a special device.
Was the work successful? “We micro-chipped ten fish – and no one got stung!”