Stingray City: North Sound, off the island of Grand Cayman, is the world’s largest salt water lagoon. The island itself is horse-shoe shaped opening to the north, with the barrier reef crossing the opening of the horse-shoe, creating a huge expanse of clear, calm, shallow water.
Stingray City is an area of shallow sandbars in the North Sound of Grand Cayman, in Cayman Islands, in western Caribbean Sea. It’s Cayman Islands’ most popular tourist attraction where southern stingrays are found in abundance and visitors can pet and interact with the animals.
The stingrays began gathering in the area during the 1980s when fisherman, returning from an excursion, stopped in the area to clean their fish in the calm water of the shallows and sandbar. The fish guts and squid that were thrown overboard attracted the stingrays who normally feed on mollusks and crustaceans, and on the occasional small fish. Soon the stingrays began to associate the sound of a boat motor with food. Years went by, and eventually some local divers realized that the stingrays could be fed by hand.
The researchers found that Stingray City’s stingrays show distinctly different patterns of activity than their wild counterparts, who don’t enjoy daily feedings or close human contact.
‘We saw some very clear and very prominent behavioral changes, and were surprised by how these large animals had essentially become homebodies in a tiny area,’ said Mahmood Shivji of the Guy Harvey Research Institute and NSU Oceanographic Center, who led the study.
‘It’s unclear how much of the stingray’s daily diet comes from tourism provided food, but the good news is we have seen the animals forage when tourists are absent suggesting that these animal are not completely dependent on these handouts.’