Just after dawn on May 5, scientists working along a stretch of the Mekong River in Cambodia released a giant, endangered freshwater stingray that had been caught on a fisherman’s line. At 13 feet long and 400 pounds, the gigantic animal pancake was larger than a hibachi table.
“It was shaking, and I told her, ‘Calm down, we will release you soon,’” said Chea Seila, a coordinator for the Wonders of the Mekong Project.
The giant freshwater stingray, Urogymnus polylepis, is the world’s largest stingray species, known also as a whipray. With dusky-brown tops and creamy white bottoms, the animals slide across riverbeds in search of fish and invertebrates. Though they can grow to epic proportions, over-harvesting for the stingray’s meat, accidental deaths in fishing nets and habitat fragmentation and degradation from dams, pollution and other human activities have made the animals endangered.