Stingray rescue sees captives returned to wild
(CNS): Stingrays that normally spend their time at the Sandbar and Stingray City were returned to the wild on Monday after Department of Environment officials rescued them from captivity at a local dolphinarium. DoE officials told CNS on Monday that they were able to successfully transfer four tagged stingrays from Dolphin Discovery to the Sandbar after the owners agreed to give up the creatures, which were identified as ones associated with the wildlife interaction zone (WIZ), after a local vet spotted the tags while visiting the facility. However, six other un-tagged rays still remain in captivity at the facility.
On Friday DoE Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie said that the dolphin facility had also been asked to release the six rays that were not tagged but were likely to be from the local population that frequents the Sandbar. However, the owners had not responded to that request and appeared reluctant to let these creatures go, she said.
It is understood that while less than half a dozen male rays were counted at the Sandbar during the most recent survey of the dwindling numbers, five of the six stingrays which the West Bay dolphinarium is continuing to hold captive are male.
The revelations that the Stingrays were being held at the tourist attraction highlighted the plight of these creatures as they have no protection in law. Although the Stingrays are supposed to be protected while they are inside the wildlife interaction zone around the Sandbar and Stingray City, if the rays swim outside that zone, as they frequently do, they have absolutely no protection.
Although there has been considerable public outrage about the stingrays being kept at the dolphinarium, because there is no evidence that the four tagged rays were taken from the WIZ there is nothing to prevent the facility from keeping the six untagged rays.
Dolphin Discovery, as well as many other animal related businesses in Cayman, including the Turtle Farm, does not have a license to hold animals because the Department of Agriculture, inexplicably, is not enforcing the law, there is no possible sanction against the facility.
If the Animals Law was being enforced and the dolphinarium did have a license to hold these marine mammals, the acquisition of Stingrays would have required the facility to apply for a change of use license and the issue may have come to light sooner and created an opportunity for officials to refuse such a change and see all ten creatures released.
The recent situation has highlighted, once again, the inadequacy of current legislation and the failure of other government departments to protect wildlife in the Cayman Islands, despite the efforts of the DoE and the significance of Stingray City and the Sandbar to the wider tourism product.
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