Killer Stingrays

Who would have thought that it would be the stingrays fighting back?

They seem to be the very images of peace and tranquillity but ever since they killed that world famous wildlife molester (I know he was loved but you weren’t the crocodile he mugged) their elegant gliding has become distinctly… militaristic. There have even been several sightings of stingrays wearing Che Guevara tee shirts on the Coromandel this summer, and one large bearded one off the Whangarei Heads was reported to have been seen smoking a large cigar.

After the two recent attacks, I’ve been wondering if stingrays report back to base after each raid saying ‘That was one small flip for a stingray and one giant flap for mother Nature.

The tide is turning humans. Now it’s our turn.”


I doubt stingrays do demonic laughter very well and they are hardly the poster fish for world domination but there’s no doubt there’s something up with these revolutionary rays. And they have been patient – it’s only been about 200 years of industrial waste and human poo being poured into their backyard – not to mention the seabed looking like the land equivalent of a nuclear bomb site from dredging, mussel farming and all the rest of it. We haven’t even started on the whole global warming thing – if a slightly warmer temperature means only female baby turtles hatch and can mutate the genetic make-up of fruit flies what is it actually doing to everything else? (And us – but we haven’t been too worried about that up till now because we’re so sure we know so much we’ll just ‘fix’ it technologically when the time comes… like you do on a tamagochi I suppose.)

Are stingrays particularly macho and did they wake up one morning and find all their sons wearing pink seaweed tutus and finally decide enough was enough? I guess the animal kingdom couldn’t choose the crocs to fight back – they’re extinct in many places now except Queensland and then when a croc takes one little nibble at some kid a whole bunch of rabid graziers son’s with ‘roo lamps on their vehicles go and shoot the bejesus out of an entire population. It’d never last. The sharks are pitifully small in numbers now and have a problem with their image and what’s a turtle going to do to fight back? Beach itself on a sandbank and go on a hunger strike? They probably decided we just wouldn’t notice. Nope. Stingrays learnt a lot from Vietnam. One off king hits and run – terrify the enemy into staying away from your territory. And we thought they were just dumb animals. Choosing the sting ray to make the first set of attacks is like choosing sparrows or dolphins – we can’t quite believe they’d do that – to us… you can almost hear it in the newsreaders voices telling us that the last time a stingray killed someone was in 1938 and that one has been in anger management classes ever since.

The thing is, I feel secretly happy that they’re fighting back in the same kind of scary way I felt happy when that French guy got eaten by a Komodo dragon after straying from the path to take a better shot. They found his shoe and his camera without the strap. I wondered if the guide just sighed wearily and said ‘I told you so’ to the other terrified tourists. But most of all I wondered at the beauty of a world where the possibility of being eaten by a dragon still existed. It meant there may be giant squid and unicorns (well, narwhals, at least) and seahorses forever – that whatever we’d done so far to mess the planet up – we still weren’t entirely in control and therefore – there was still hope. Because I actually don’t think we do know enough to ‘fix’ very much at all, which also makes me want to believe that Mother Nature is still powerful and sophisticated enough to do it on her own if we just leave her alone for a minute.

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