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Just like sharks got an eternally bad wrap when Steven Speilberg depicted them as monsters in 1975, most people now automatically associate stingrays with the death of Steve Irwin. In my experience, the huge smooth rays I dive with are gentle, curious puppies with no interest (or ability for that matter) in eating humans ‘Jaws’ style and with no instinct to attack and kill humans without provocation which may trigger their instincts of self-preservation. Like timid, reclusive blue ringed octopuses that have only ever been responsible for three fatalities in history, stingrays have been much maligned and have become the victims of global smear and fear campaigns and unjustified knee-jerk reactions. Ignorant fishermen frequently cut off their barbs and tails, throwing the mutilated animals back into the ocean or killing them without justification – what utterly cruel, irresponsible and senseless abuse of these gorgeous, essentially harmless creatures!
I dive with large smooth rays and small stingrays regularly. I find that they dislike being chased (anything that chases you in the ocean must be considered a potential predator), but are very responsive if I study their circling flight path then just calmly lie low where I know they are likely to pass. Often they glide straight over me, as if wanting to feel my air bubbles on their tummies or hoping for a feed; unfortunately some people still have not realised the dangers of ‘taming’ such wild animals and continue to hand feed them underwater or throw fish scraps to them from the surface. This can cause the animals to become dangerously trusting and to approach or become needlessly reliant on humans for food. No doubt if they approach the ‘wrong’ human, histrionic cries of ‘It attacked me!’ will resound through the media like they do against sharks (remember the Aussie surfer Mick Fanning’s sensationalised encounter with a great white?), perpetuating unfounded claims of stingray malice and calls for revenge. The reality is that stingrays do not prey on humans in any way (though one DID scare the living crapola out of me once as you can read HERE), instead preying on smaller marine creatures including my beloved spider crabs, as can be seen in these videos:
Here are some images and videos of me interacting with large stingrays, always initiated by the rays (photos courtesy of Kerry Borgula and Christopher Mark; video courtesy of Kerry Borgula and Mark Jones)
Here are some final videos I have taken featuring some beautiful stingrays, plus a majestic manta ray (without a sting) thrown in for good measure:
Finally, please enjoy this exquisite inspirational film featuring lots of gorgeous rays and other marine life by my underwater filmmaker dive buddy Mark Jones (you may even see me somewhere in the footage if you look closely enough …)
So it’s official. Rays are amazing and in writing this blog post I feel even more challenged to do whatever I can to ensure that they are safe from harm and that people are more aware of how incredible they truly are. I hope that you will join me in helping to be the human voice of marine life that cannot speak or fend for itself against human ignorance and cruelty.
For my image and video galleries of other critters, please click HERE.
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Love and bubbles,
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