TAMPA, Fla. — ZooTampa is opening its stingray exhibit, Stingray Shores, for guest experiences.

What You Need To Know

  • ZooTampa Animal Encounters now include a stingray experience

  • Southern and cownose stingrays populate the exhibit

  • Handlers trim barbs, and rays are raised hand-fed 

  • Stingray Shores offers daily interaction opportunities

It’s another way the zoo is trying to connect people with the wild, taking a step into the 76-degree water habitat.

That’s right — in it.

ZooTampa’s Kayla Cary is one of the zoo professionals leading the way in this hour-long experience.

It starts with educational components and preparations for meeting rays in the habitat.

“So, while you are in the waters, they may come all around you and even straight up to you," Cary said. "It’s completely OK. They are very curious animals. It’s OK, and we are entering their space.”

Cary’s been working in their space for two years.

“A lot people have misconceptions about stingrays,” she explained.

And at ZooTampa, she said, it’s even safer than the wild. Zoo staffers trim each ray’s barb.

Rays have their own dispositions. They are food-motivated. And their mouths feel like little vacuum cleaners.

Because rays sometimes burrow in the sand on Tampa Bay’s beaches, Cary shows the stingray shuffle, shuffling her feet to move forward through the sand.

“By doing this movement, this will alert the stingray we are coming near them and allow them to move,” Cary said. “They can sense vibrations in the sand.”

Moving people from fear to understanding of the wild kingdom is part of ZooTampa’s mission.

The goal is to change perceptions and help protect the future of the animals and their environment.