ABQ BioPark investigates stingray deaths at aquarium

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Albuquerque BioPark has been investigating a troubling number of stingray deaths at the aquarium. Last year, 13 stingrays died over six months, but aquarium leaders still aren’t sure what caused those deaths.

“There was a bit of a behavior change in the southern stingrays,” said Dr. Carol Bradford, the senior veterinarian at the ABQ BioPark. “Some of the swimming patterns were different, and one of them was doing a barrel-rolling behavior I believe in June of last year.”

Between June and October, nine southern stingrays and all four of the aquarium’s cownose rays died – so they ran some tests.

“There was not one particular cause of death, we did a bit of testing, sending tissue to a pathologist,” Bradford said. “There were a variety of things that we found but there was not one consistent cause of death for all the rays.”

The BioPark’s accreditor, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, also launched an investigation but they also came up empty-handed.

No issues were found in the water quality or in the tanks. The autopsies of the animals didn’t give any solid answers either – but since October, no more stingrays have died.

“Certainly, we would like to have an answer as to why they died, but a lot of the times we don’t get that in the zoo and aquarium field,” Bradford said. “Sometimes we don’t have a specific answer for our questions, but did quite a bit of testing.”

At this time, there are no plans to replace the cownose rays they lost, but they still have three other species of stingrays at the aquarium.