By Ann Kunz
On Thursday last week (2nd December), uShaka Sea World staff were notified by Lieutenant Colonel G. Morey from the Harbour police/water wing that a large sting ray had become trapped in the old submarine dock on Salisbury Island (Naval Base).
Initial attempts to assess the ray’s condition were unsuccessful as the water was cloudy and far too dirty to see the ray. The harbour police continued to check on the ray over the weekend and thankfully, yesterday morning, the conditions had improved to such an extent that they were able to confirm that the ray was still alive.
Staff from the uShaka Sea World curatorial team loaded their vehicle with the equipment needed to rescue and release the ray before heading for Salisbury Island. The equipment included a small crane mounted on its own trailer.
On arrival, the team took time to assess the situation before they began planning the unique rescue operation. The ray was confirmed to be a female Round Ribbontail Ray of approximately 150kg. Once all the equipment was set up, the team donned their diving gear and climbed down a rope ladder into the water which was about three metres deep. They slowly guided the ray into the specially designed stretcher before hoisting her out of the water by crane. Thankfully their efforts to ensure she remained calm throughout the half hour process proved successful.
The very fortunate ray was then carefully carried the short distance to the adjacent slipway by stretcher and released.
“Although the conditions in the “submarine dock” were not ideal, we could not standby and watch this magnificent animal in trouble without trying to assist”. I am grateful to the harbour police, the navy and my amazing colleagues who assisted in this unique and well executed rescue operation. Hopefully she stays out of trouble in the future!” said Senior Aquarist Jason Haxton