Annual check up for the rays – a photo essay

In preparation for the rays' annual medical check-ups at uShaka Sea World, a team of approximately 25 staff members gathered around the top of the Open Ocean exhibit

Thursday 15 August 2013 was the day this year that two veterinarians, a veterinary nurse, three divers, eight aquarists, a crane operator and two quarantine staff gathered to assess the rays' health status.

Each participant had been thoroughly briefed prior to the event, so each was aware of their particular area of responsibility, preparation for which ensured that the process went smoothly.

Three divers were stationed in the water to swim the rays – cartilaginous fish species – to the surface and side of the exhibit, where four aquarists were waiting with a stretcher. 

As each ray was individually positioned and secured on the stretcher, the crane operator hoisted the stretcher to the side of the exhibit and placed it on the ground, where another team of aquarists set about reading the ray's microchip and weighing the animal.

The ray was then stretchered to a trailer and placed into a sedative bath. After approximately six minutes, the animal was sufficiently sedated to allow the veterinary team to go about its work.

Blood was taken to ascertain each ray’s blood-cell count, and sugar and lactic acid levels. The animal's general external condition was observed, and the body checked for parasites. Each animal was measured, and an ultrasound was carried out to check heart rate and internal organs.

All information gathered during the medical was logged against the individual animal’s records, with scribes recording all observations and making relevant notes as the procedure progressed.

The entire procedure for each ray, from the time the diver selected a ray underwater to the time it was returned to its environment, took under 15 minutes.

Lifting the ray from the Open Ocean exhibit on to a custom-built stretcher

Transferring the ray to the sedation tank 

Taking a blood sample for screening

Carefully removing parasites 

Scanning the ray's microchip to retrieve data

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