According to a press release from the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium, on January 18th, staff welcomed additional Cownose Rays, raised in human care, from a regional Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) accredited facility. The animals were closely monitored by the River Museum’s aquarists throughout transport and upon arrival.

Cow Nose Ray Credit: National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium
Cow Nose Ray                        Credit: National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium
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The Cownose Ray and two Yellow Stingrays on view in the Delta have been moved to a separate holding system to allow the incoming stingrays additional space for quarantine and acclimation, as is standard procedure for all new animals at the facility.

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Upon arrival in the morning on December 22, staff in the Delta noticed animals in distress and immediately began steps to determine the cause. The exhibit appeared to have experienced a supersaturation event after water levels in the tank dropped due to excess evaporation from dry, cold winter temperatures. The exhibit’s monitoring system showed a spike in oxygen levels in the late evening hours but did not send an alarm notification to staff as expected.

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The National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium has completed their investigation and confirmed preliminary findings from the December incident following a malfunction in its Delta exhibit’s alarm system. The River Museum has since replaced the alarm system and is currently in the process of acclimating additional stingrays in the Delta exhibit located in its National River Center.

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Eight stingrays were lost. One Cownose Ray was in stable condition at the time of the incident and has since recovered. The necropsy, or animal autopsy results, confirmed the cause of death of the stingrays in the Delta was gas bubble disease, comparable to decompression sickness in humans. This supports the preliminary internal investigation conducted by the Living Collections department. Alarm systems, which failed to alert staff to the issue, have since been replaced.

The Delta remained closed until Friday (1/20) while the new sting-rays adjusted to their new environment, but is now open for viewing capabilities.

“Animal health and welfare is one of our top priorities at our facility. These animals came from a touch tank at the previous facility, and we expect them to acclimate to our campus well. The animals’ acclimation is being evaluated by the Living Collections team and veterinarian, and their progress will determine when stingray touch experiences can be offered again.”

-Abby Urban, Curator of Living Collections.

Visitors are encouraged to check rivermuseum.com for additional updates as they become available.

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