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Zoo Tampa’s stingray deaths caused by aeration system malfunction

Updated: Jun. 15, 2021 at 3:38 PM EDT
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TAMPA, Fla. (WWSB) - ZooTampa has revealed the cause of an incident that killed 12 stingrays last month in the zoo’s Stingray Bay touch-pool habitat.

Zoo officials say an unknown malfunction overaerated the water in the tank, causing a “supersaturation event” that caused the stingrays to die of gas embolisms, a statement from the zoo said.

“Following ... analysis and assessment of lab and pathology tests, it’s been concluded that a supersaturation event took place, likely in the overnight hours, causing (gas bubble disease) in the rays. The event was not immediately known because the oxygen levels had resolved by the time the water was tested in the morning, following a standard water change,” the statement said.

Gas bubble disease is a fatal condition that is similar to decompression sickness, also called the “bends” in human scuba divers, caused by bubbles in the bloodstream.

“ZooTampa has been committed to conducting a thorough and transparent investigation to the May 27th incident at Stingray Bay, enlisting the assistance of independent experts who have extensive aquatic experience in the zoo and aquarium field.”

ZooTampa said possible causes include a system malfunction or a crack in portions of the pipeline which was not readily accessible.

ZooTampa will not reopen Stingray Bay. Instead it will build an updated habitat, with a new water management system which will include redundancies, safeguards and updated procedures, the statement said.

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