Caretakers at the Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden are celebrating the recovery of Maggie, the cownose stingray who recently underwent a surgical procedure to remove her left ovary.
“About a year and a half ago, the aquatics team started to notice that Maggie’s abdomen was swollen and we discovered a large ovary filled with cysts and fluid using ultrasound,” said OKC Zoo’s Marine Mammals Assistant Curator, Sierra Chappell. “Maggie is usually very personable and seeks out attention, but on her more swollen days, she would not eat consistently by hand and wasn’t as interested in her caretakers.”
Aside from the change to her behavior, OKC Zoo caretakers and veterinarians were concerned that the fluid-filled ovary could burst, putting Maggie’s life at risk.
“Given her age and her quality of life, we knew we needed to act to save her life. She has plenty of life left to live,” Chappell said. “Cownose stingrays are left ovary dominant, so if they have pups, it most commonly comes from the left ovary.”
Once the decision was made, the veterinarians consulted with Dr. Natalie Mylniczenko, an expert in the field of stingray reproductive health, to create the protocol for Maggie’s surgery. This protocol combined with meticulous planning among the Zoo’s veterinary and aquatics care teams resulted in Maggie’s successful surgery on Wednesday, October 25 at the Zoo’s Joan Kirkpatrick Animal Hospital.
“She was on the Med Cart, our specially designed exam table for fish, for two hours, but before that we needed to move water from Stingray Bay to use while she was in surgery,” Chappell said. “Doctors were constantly monitoring the oxygen levels and temperature of the water, which was continuously flushed over her gills to provide oxygen and keep her under anesthesia, because any changes could have detrimental effects on Maggie.”
Other than successful removal of the 1.5-pound ovary, the goal was to keep the time of the surgery to a minimum. When stingrays stop moving, there can be a buildup of lactic acid, which can be toxic, she said. So, when the procedure was finished, the team immediately moved Maggie back to Stingray Bay where she swam with the aquatics care team observing her.
“Once we were back at Stingray Bay, we put her into the nursery side of the pool, followed by another Cownose named Jensen, and they started schooling immediately,” she said. “After a short time, we were thrilled to see her accept shrimp from one of our aquatics caretakers, Dylan Ferguson, and she foraged for food all on her own.”
Since Maggie was born in the wild, caretakers are not sure of her exact age, but they estimate she’s at least 14 years old. She already had three pups—Maui, Minerva, and Merlin—before her surgery.
“I couldn’t be happier with the outcome of Maggie’s surgery,” said OKC Zoo’s Senior Director of Veterinary Services, Dr. Jennifer D’Agostino. “This was a collaborative effort between the vet and animal care teams and the level of preparation and expertise from both teams resulted in a safe and successful surgery.”
Guests can see Maggie and the Zoo’s entire fever of stingrays at Stingray Bay. Enjoy up-close encounters and feeding opportunities with the stingrays. Learn more here.
Celebrate the holiday season in wild style! The Oklahoma City Zoo is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily with the last entry no later than 4 p.m. The Zoo will be closed to the public during the daytime on Christmas and Tuesdays and Wednesdays through February 7, 2024. Purchase advance Zoo admission tickets at okczoo.org/tickets and avoid the entry lines. Located at the crossroads of I-44 and I-35, the OKC Zoo is a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the American Alliance of Museums, Oklahoma City’s Adventure District and an Adventure Road partner. Regular daytime admission is $16 for adults and $13 for children ages 3-11 and seniors ages 65 and over. Children two and under are admitted free. Membership has its perks! As a ZOOfriends member of the Oklahoma City Zoo, enjoy free admission all year-long, plus many additional benefits and discounts. Get a membership for 1, 2, or 4 people through January 1, 2024 and receive a voucher for one free plush animal ($24.99 value) from the Zoo’s gift shop. Or purchase a membership for 6, 8, or 10 people and get two free plushes. Vouchers can be redeemed any time before December 31, 2024. You will also be supporting the Zoo’s animal family, education programming and conservation initiatives both locally and globally. Join or renew today at www.okczoo.org/membership.