50 Shades of Ray: New Whip Training for Underwater Team

A dive team at a seaside attraction are set to receive specialist training in dealing with whips and barbs as they prepare to take delivery of one of their most dangerous creatures yet.

The animal care team at SEA LIFE Blackpool are to undergo a new health and safety programme in preparation for the arrival of a 1.5metre Jenkins Whiptail Ray to the centre’s 500,000 litre Ocean Display.

The ray, nicknamed Christian Grey, is set to join 20 sharks and an array of tropical fish in one of the UK’s largest tropical underwater displays.

Scott Blacker, curator at SEA LIFE Blackpool is heading up the organisation of the new training for the five divers, who will come into regular contact with the ray as part of their daily dives into the huge display.

Scott said: “We’re used to regularly coming into contact with our tropical sharks including the 2.75metre sandbar shark and know how to read their behaviours to stay safe. This is our first large stingray and so the whole team need to be trained in how to handle and care for this amazing creature whilst staying safe themselves.

“The whip tail is approximately one metre in length and carries a 10cm barb which is the animal’s defensive weapon and can cause serious injury. The training programme will not only teach our expert diving team the correct handling for the animal but also what to do in the case of injury.”

Fed daily on a diet of squid, whiting, pouting and mackerel, the divers at the centre hope to be able to train the ray to come to the surface to take food from their hands and form part of the daily interactive talks and feeding times the centre runs.

Scott concluded: “A large part of our job, as well as caring for the animals, is to educate our visitors about them and the new ray will allow us to introduce the amazing underwater world of tropical rays, their feeding habits and the threats humans pose to them.”

Christian Grey the Ray is set to arrive on 19 July at SEA LIFE Blackpool.

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