Return to Cayman – Is it conservation?

With so many conservationists in our party, the inevitable debate surfaced about whether this place, nick named Sting Ray City, was for the benefit of sting rays or people.  There are several tour operators who head out daily to this sandbank  but the government regulates how many tours, how many people on each tour, how  much of the squid they can feed in one session, and how long you are allowed to stay with the rays.  Obviously the rays are thriving, we saw well over a hundred just from where we anchored.  And it helps educate and build awareness amongst people who otherwise could be fearful, or worse, take action against the ray in the same way sharks are demonized in many parts of the world.  The truth is that there is a relationship between humans and rays on Cayman Island, not quite symbiotic but certainly having some benefits both to conserve a good population of these animals and provide a key tourist product for the islands.

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Whose benefiting from this tourist attraction?

And it was a privilege to be stroked by a sting ray.  How Steve Irwin ever got killed by one still confuses me.  So much has been written that it is not worth going over the details again; yes he was incredibly unlucky to have the rays sting pierce his heart, most get a nasty gash on the foot or leg.  But I’d always thought his sensational approach to educating people about animals was abusive to so many of the animals he encountered, that when the ray caught him, the rest of the animal kingdom went “YES!!!!”

Time to leave these beautiful animals, and time to leave Cayman.  The contrast with my previous time here was so great, and I pay tribute to the local conservationists who took us places that few tourists bother to explore, as well as one of those experiences that rank at the top of world must dos.  Cayman has a brash American, rich man’s paradise angle to it, but deep down it is a lovely old Caribbean island with a rich and unique biodiversity, and we should ensure it is nurtured for ever more.

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