Phoenix-area boy bitten by stingray at zoo now recovering

Valley boy gets a scare at the Wildlife World Zoo.

PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz. - At the Wildlife World Zoo and Aquarium, the Stingray Touch Tank is a popular stop for guests like Kassandra Ortega-Velasco, 6, who like to get up close to the animals.

"I think I want to touch them every day," she said while feeding one hungry stingray a fish.

Guests are invited to touch the stingray as they pass by, and feed them fish or shrimp for a fee.

"They place [the food] right in the middle of their fingers, and they put their hand up against the wall," said Kristy Morcom of the Wildlife World Zoo. "What [the stingrays] do is they'll come and they use suction to get the food from the feeders." 

She says guests really enjoy the experience, and have a lot of fun petting the stingray and feeding them.

Four-year-old Lukah Hernandez is home in Goodyear relaxing. On Oct. 4, his trip to the zoo and the stingrays gave him and his mom, Candace Belvedere, a terrible scare along with a nasty bite on the hand.

Belvedere shared a video her friend shot.

"It starts off with his hand already in the water against the wall," she said.

She says a stingray came up and in a flash.

"You can see my hand coming down and pulling his arm, because it was already in his mouth," Belvedere said.

In Lukah's frightened mind, "his mouth was all the way up to here," he said, pointing to the upper part of his right arm.

Lukah wasn't stung, but his mom could tell he had a good-sized gash on his finger.

"You know, you hear of stingray stings, but you don't hear of stingray bites," Belvedere wondered.  "So I wasn't sure if this was something I should be seriously concerned about."

It turns out Lukah was in no real danger, according to zoo staff. These stingrays carry no poison and lack the ability to produce any dangerous bacteria. His parents took him to Phoenix Children's Hospital as a precaution.

As for feeding any more stingrays, Lukah said, "Never!"

Belvedere has spoken with the Director of Wildlife World Zoo, Mickey Ollson. She says he apologized for what happened, and said the zoo will be picking up any medical expenses Lukah has as result of the bite.   

The zoo spokesperson said this was a very rare occurrence. In the eight years since they opened the Stingray Touch Tank, they've only had "a handful of instances like this."

Copyright 2016 KPNX


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