ZooTampa's Stingray Bay will return with 'reimagined' touch tank after stingray deaths

In May of last year, ZooTampa had to shut down its Stingray Bay after the sudden and tragic deaths of all 12 of its rays. Now, officials are preparing to reopen the attraction in the coming months.

The zoo is describing the new Stingray Bay as a "reimagined" state-of-the-art touch tank. The popular exhibit will be back this year and guests will once again have the opportunity to pet and feed the rays or wade in for an up-close experience with the animals. In a news release, ZooTampa did not provide an opening date.

Zoo officials say the tank will be low enough, so young visitors will be able to peer and reach into the water.

The news comes nearly a year after the zoo closed and began dismantling the stingray exhibit following the sudden deaths of a dozen rays. Officials later determine a "supersaturation event" caused by an excess of oxygen or nitrogen in the water, which in turn led to deadly gas bubbles forming inside the animals.

PREVIOUS: ZooTampa stingray deaths blamed on 'supersaturation;' tank will be redesigned and rebuilt

"These are living things that we care for every day, and you lose them, it's hard on staff," said Dr. Larry Killmar, Chief Zoological Officer. "Obviously, we're very concerned about what happened. The staff is devastated by this loss, but we're going to make it right."

Zoo officials last year explained the incident could have been caused by a cracked pipe or malfunctioning pump or skimmer. As a result, the old tank was removed. They said last summer that the new exhibit and habitat, opening later this year, will have updated technology and more safeguards to protect the rays.