For the first time in Memphis Zoo history, you can get friendly with marine animals. Do things right, and you'll have a pack of stingrays eating out of your hands.
The zoo has built Stingray Bay, a shallow 17,000 gallon salt water pool for the cownose and Southern stingrays and bonnethead and white-spotted bamboo sharks to frolic in at the west end of the park.
The smaller stingrays are surprisingly friendly; if you stick your hand into the water, they'll come nudge against it and let you pet them (they feel kind of like wriggling wetsuits). The larger stingrays, which way up to 120 pounds, tend to stay on the bottom of the pool, moving around slowly like giant, floppy Roombas.
I highly recommend paying $2 for a cup of chopped shrip and river smelt to feed the stingrays. To feed them, you wedge the fish piece between two fingers and stick your hand in the water. The stingrays will come and eat it out of your hand, which feels a little bit like a gentile, wet vacuum. It kind of tickles.
Feeding time is actually pretty cute – once they realize that someone's got food, a bunch of stingrays will swarm and they'll start nuzzling up to your hands like hungry puppies.
If you're freaked out by the idea of sticking your hand into a tank full of stingrays and sharks, don't be. The stingrays' barbs, which are located under their tails, are trimmed regularly (and painlessly) with nail clippers. The sharks are never fed by hand, so they won't approach your hands looking for food.
Stingray Bay opens to the public on March 9, 2013 and will be open when the Zoo is open through October 31, 2013. Admission is $3 for members and $4 for non-members.
March 9, 2013 – October 31, 2013