Firstly apologies for the lack of content for the last week or so. My laptop failed again. Given events during my absence from the blogosphere I thought I'd offer my thoughts on interaction with stingrays. I've dived with a number of different species of stingray over the years (see posts here and here). This species Himantura jenkinsi aka Jenkins' Whipray is one of the biggest and as its name suggests its tail is one of the more powerful.
I took this photo having crawled under a table coral the ray was sat under with about a foot and a half of ground clearance, the ray was pretty much cornered. To add to the situation a second large whipray swam in over me and sat next to the first (mating behaviour?). As I moved on a second large species - the marbled ribontail ray - swam under the same coral head. At no time did I feel threatened, if anything I felt privileged but in reality this was a fairly common diver/ray interaction.
I share this simply because whilst I don't know the exact circumstances of Steve Irwin's demise there's been a lot of speculation about his behaviour and whether it triggered the event. I doubt this was the case. Animals, like people, react differently to a given situation. Some are aggressive, some panic and some flee. Unfortunately in this case the animal lashed out and the world lost a great conservationist. I doubt this had anything to do with what Steve was or wasn't doing. I once saw some idiot try to sit on and ride a ray without getting stung and I'm sure Steve's involvement was far more passive. I know some people have been surprised by the level of global reaction to Steve's death, if anything I'd say this points to the effectiveness of his presentational style and the depth of the conservation legacy he leaves behind. RIP Steve.