The New Year began at Antwerp Zoo with the birth of a Bluespotted Stingray. The Zoo participates in the breeding program for this endangered species, and they cannot be more proud of their new arrival.
"We noticed in November, a thickening in the female, which indicates a pregnancy. It is always exciting to wait and see. On January 5, we discovered the pup behind a coral wall of the reef aquarium. It's a boy and seemed to us one or two days old. With a first pregnancy, there is usually only one baby, but a ray can even give birth to up to seven little rays. That is a promise for the future,” Keeper Danny shared.
The Bluespotted Stingray (Neotrygon kuhlii), also known as Bluespotted Maskray or Kuhl's Stingray, is a species of the Dasyatidae family. The body is rhomboidal and colored green with blue spots. Maximum disk width is estimated 46.5 centimeters (18.3 in).
The Bluespotted Stingray preys on many fish and small mollusks. They are generally found from Indonesia to Japan, and most of Australia. The Bluespotted Stingray is also targeted by many parasites such as tapeworms, flatworms, and flukes.
The species is ovoviviparous. Embryos are retained in eggs within the mother's body until they are ready to hatch. The embryos receive nourishment from the mothers' uterine fluid. Mothers give birth to up to seven pups per litter; these pups range from 6 inches (150 mm) to 13 inches (330 mm) long at birth.
The little male pup at Antwerp Zoo is large, about 17 cm, the size of a saucepan.
Since 2015, Antwerp Zoo has had a large reef aquarium in which a mix of fish swims in splendor. Now, both blue and gray stingrays roam for the first time between the corals. Caretakers at the Zoo can be seen diving into the aquarium to feed all the fish and clean the windows. The Stingrays get their individual meal of eel, and keepers use this time to also monitor their health.
Stingrays have a venomous spine with barbs on their tails. They are not aggressive and will not attack without provocation. They save their defense mechanism for unexpected or unfortunate movements.
Like the precious coral reefs and many other ocean dwellers, Stingrays are threatened. Their habitat is under pressure. Also overfishing reduces their number.
In Queensland, Australia there are many areas for high protection of the Bluespotted Stingray, three being the Shoalwater, Corio Bay's Area Ramsar Site, and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
The ray is commonly caught in the Java Sea by fishermen trawling and by Danish seine boats in large quantities. The Bluespotted Stingray is the second most significant species out of the sharks, rays, and skate family to be fished, contributing to about 700 kilograms (1,500 lb) per boat in 2006-2007.
Only recently, there have been international breeding programs initiated to help protect the species. Antwerp Zoo is now a proud and successful participant in the European breeding program for the Bluespotted Stingrays.