Stingray Cove is now open at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, giving visitors the opportunity to reach into the water and touch stingrays.
OPEN DURING ALL ZOO HOURS, BUT TOUCH TIMES ARE AS FOLLOWS:
Saturday-Sunday 10:00-12:30 & 1:00-3:00Varied shapes and colors of stingrays inhabit the approximately 1,000 gallon tank, some swimming placidly in the clear water as human hands dip in to gently touch them and feel their somewhat velvety surfaces. Others lie camouflaged in the sandy bottom, barely visible as if hiding from predators in the ocean.
A visit to Stingray Cove is free with paid admission or membership to Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. It puts a new spotlight on the South Pacific Aquarium, which is paired with the North Pacific Aquarium to give guests the opportunity to see hundreds of cold and warm water fish. Point Defiance is the only place in the Northwest where a zoo and an aquarium are combined.
There are five species of dinner-plate sized stingrays on exhibit, ranging from the highly colorful bluespotted maskray to the mottled yellow rays that are expert at camouflaging themselves in the sandy tank bottom.
In addition to the yellow stingrays and bluespotted maskray, visitors will see bluespotted ribbontail, Chilean and Atlantic stingrays (also known as sabina rays). The zoo has more than 50 rays, and some three dozen or so will be in the touch tank at any given time.
Next to the stingray pool, electric-colored blue chromis, neon yellow Oriental sweetlips, harlequin sweetlips, an emperor red snapper, clown fish, angel fish and dozens of others dart to and fro, an oceanic rainbow in motion.
And Stingray Cove differs from most exhibits in zoos, because here, visitors are encouraged to touch the animals. Interpreters will talk about the stingrays and give visitors guidance on how to gently touch them, sliding their hands along the pectoral fins, or sides, of the rays. The rays’ bodies are smooth; some might describe the sensation as feeling gel spread along a soft surface.
Aquarists keep the stingrays’ barbs clipped, so there’s no need for visitors to worry about being stung. The clipping doesn’t hurt them; it’s analogous to a human fingernail trim.
Stingray Cove is part of the zoo’s South Pacific Aquarium. The 300,000-gallon ecosystem boasts the Outer Reef, Blue Hole and Lagoon habitats. Together, they are home to 17 sharks and an assortment of Crevalle Jacks, soldierfish, Clark’s clownfish, pinecone fish, Dussumier, Naso and yellow tangs, a Napoleon humphead wrasse, moray eel and a host of other species.
Save money and purchase your tickets online.
- Bluespotted Maskray
- Yellow Stingray
- Atlantic Stingray
- Bluespotted Ribbontail
- Chilean Stingray
Fun Stingray Facts
- Long lives ahead: Stingrays are born alive and look just like mom – except in miniature. Some can live more than a quarter of a century.
- The big and the small: Stingrays vary greatly in size. Some are no bigger than a hand; others are up to 6.5 feet wide and can weigh nearly 800 pounds.
- A fingernail trim: Clipping the barbs of stingrays for the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium Stingray Cove exhibit is much like trimming human fingernails, except the clippers are more like those used on dogs’ toenails. Aquarists will clip the rays’ barbs every few weeks.
- Read more fun facts about Stingrays!
How You Can Help
- Choose sustainable seafood: Stingrays are often accidentally caught up in commercial operations fishing for other species, leading to death or injury of the rays. A Seafood Watch wallet card or Seafood Watch smart phone app can help people make responsible seafood choices. www.seafoodwatch.org
- Pick pets carefully: Some stingray populations are vulnerable to the home aquarium pet trade. A Reef Fish Guide can help people pick aquarium pets that keep fish populations and coral reefs healthy. www.reefprotect.org
- Watch what goes into the water: Anything humans put on the ground has the potential to wash into Puget Sound and harm people and wildlife. That includes pet waste, motor oil, and lawn chemicals. Puget Sound is connected to stingrays' habitat. Ways to help keep Puget Sound healthy can be found at www.pugetsoundstartshere.org.