Swimmer meets extremely friendly stingrays in Belize

Published July 11, 2019 439 Plays $19.80 earned

Rumble / Wild WildlifeStingrays are often thought of as ferocious killers, likely to stab a person with their venomous barb without provocation. While it is true that they are capable of inflicting serious, or even fatal wounds, they have no reason to attack a human. A very notorious and tragic incident involving world famous animal enthusiast, Steve Irwin, added to this misconception and fear. In a fluke accident, his heart was pierced by the barbed tail of a stingray in a feeding demonstration.

But in reality, stingrays are highly intelligent animals and they have little fear of humans. In almost all cases of injury caused by a stingray, it involved a human unwittingly stepping on a stingray, causing a reactive strike. When attacked from above, or stepped on, a stingray perceives that it is being attacked by its only real predator, a shark. It can reflexively arch its back and tail, exposing a dangerous spike that has a powerful venom on it.

As long as stingrays are not approached improperly, they are more than capable of outswimming a lot of creatures, especially people. Their large wings can be used for rapid propulsion, allowing them to flee instead of needing to fight a threat. Many places even encourage feeding of stingrays to attract them to an area where people are able to safely interact with them.

These stingrays are completely free, living in a marine sanctuary called Hol Chan in Belize, off the island of San Pedro. Although they are very accustomed to people, they are not routinely fed here and their interaction with humans is curiosity based, not motivated by food. They are protected and treated very respectfully so they have learned to not fear humans. They actually enjoy the physical contact and will quickly swim towards anyone who shows an interest in them. This lucky swimmer is able to rub one stingray's nose as it turns and swims right into him. While he's petting one, another swims right over his head. A third stingray makes an approach as he dives down to the sand. They are a joy to interact with and their skin feels like smooth leather.

Experiences like this show that these wonderful creatures are not the monsters that some people believe they are.