Is Ecotourism Harming Wild Stingrays?

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Humans are naturally curious -They like to seek out the wildest adventures even if it means intruding on the habitats and lives of other species. Nowhere is this fact more obvious than Stingray City in the Cayman Islands. The popular tourist destination attracts over a million visitors each year, all eager to swim and pet the stingrays that flock to the shallow sandbars in droves.

However, the results of a recent study conducted by a team of scientists led by Mahmood Shivji from the Guy Harvey Research Institute, is raising some concerns about the effects of such ecotourism on the animals. That's because a two-year observation of about 164 stingrays that frequent the area, found some drastic changes in the behavior and lifestyle of the animals.

For one, in the wild stingrays are loners that swim for miles in the darkness of the night, foraging for food. However, at Stingray City where the tourists often feed them, they have become so lazy that they have started to eat during the day and rest at night.

Also, they suddenly do not seem to mind hanging out in close quarters with other stingrays and even form schools, during feeding time. The good news is that when the tourists disappear, the stingrays still seem to know how to fend for themselves.

In addition, instead of having a specific mating season, they are now having babies all year and more alarmingly, displaying very aggressive behavior toward one another - biting more frequently than their counterparts do, in the wild.

Mr. Shivji believes that these changes could be detrimental to the health and well-being of these animals in the wild. Given that we do not know what the long-term impact of these radical lifestyle changes will be on the wild animals, he thinks that we need to do a lot more research, before such areas should be opened to the public.

While the team plans to continue monitoring the Grand Cayman stingrays, any kind of change to the way Stingray City is operated, will be difficult. That's because it generates substantial income for the local economy - If rumors are to be believed, the equivalent of as much as $500,000 USD annually, per stingray!

Resources: Sciencedaily.com, Dailymail.co.uk

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342 Comments
  • someonealmost 11 years
    so my current events
    • solskjaermclair
      solskjaermclairalmost 11 years
      so intreresting!!!!!!!!! Manta Rays are awesome!!!!!!
      • Hassanalmost 11 years
        awesome
        • groupyalmost 11 years
          poor stingrays
          • julzalmost 11 years
            in all reality its a fun experience but if it is affecting to sting rays nature and habitat then that is a definite problem
            • gagadancer
              gagadanceralmost 11 years
              AWWWWWW I love stingrays they are my very fave animal because i once got to pet and feed one.
            • dudeacon45almost 11 years
              hey peeps this is totally my current event i got read this again!!!!!!!!! p.s stingrays forever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
              • dudeacon45almost 11 years
                hey! i wonder why they try to feed the stingrays,i mean there wild animals its sorta crazy and if you disagree with me its crazy talk,sorry i just <3 stingrays
                • cougar
                  cougaralmost 11 years
                  That can wipe out all the stingrays if to manny people keep touching them. Follow me and I will follow you.
                  • sem16
                    sem16almost 11 years
                    I think that for the people to go out and try to pet the stingrays that is sort of crazy