If you've thought that could be hazardous to your health, you haven't visited Lowry Park Zoo's Stingray Bay, where you can get up close and personal, with no fear of painful consequences.
By JENNIFER CONWAY
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 13, 2001
Starting Sunday, visitors to Lowry Park Zoo can get close to a variety of stingrays -- without the risk of getting stung.
The zoo's new Stingray Bay allows visitors to put their hands in 16,500 gallons of water to pet and feed five different species of stingrays. But don't worry, these rays no longer have their stingers.
Stingrays inhabit warm, shallow waters, where they search for mollusks and worms. Slender with a long, whiplike, venomous tail, stingrays are a familiar sight along Florida's Gulf coast, where beachgoers often must shuffle their feet to avoid stepping on the creatures and being stung.
Stingray Bay includes Southern stingrays, which can reach 6 feet long and are the largest species of ray found in Florida. They live in bays and estuaries from New Jersey to southern Brazil. Atlantic, cownose and yellow stingrays are additional stingray species.
The Atlantic guitarfish lurks in the water alongside the rays. Triangular in shape, these fish reach 21/2 feet and share some of the rays' qualities.
A zookeeper is on hand at Stingray Bay at all times to provide educational information and to instruct guests how to pet and feed the stingrays. Petting the rays is free with zoo admission; stingray food costs $2.
Stingray Bay joins the petting zoo and Lorikeet Landing as exhibits where guests can touch the animals.
The Stingray Bay exhibit opens Sunday at Lowry Park Zoo, 1101 W Sligh Ave., Tampa. (813) 935-8552or www.lowryparkzoo.com. Hours: 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Admission Sunday is $2 per person. Regular admission: $9.50 adults, $8.50 50 and older, $5.95 ages 3-11.