A domestic helper did not heed her employer’s warning and dipped her hand inside a glass tank where stingrays were kept. Without warning, one of the rays stung her in the palm!

“The sting was so excruciatingly painful that she slumped on the floor for 30 minutes, and thought she was going to die. Her face turned purple, and blood was oozing out from the palm,” related businessman Lim Ngeok Kong, 58, her employer. (Also read: Black Diamond stingrays bring happiness to this businessman)

He immediately rushed her to Mount Elizabeth Hospital (in Singapore) where she received three injection – a painkiller, one to stop nausea (as the side effect of the painkiller is vomitting), and a tetanus shot.

Lim said: “A fellow hobbyist told me that one should dip the wound in hot water (as hot as one could bear). I later read on the Internet that the warm water will draw the venom out, but not completely. The pain and symptoms will not be as severe.”

He warned that a stingray may look pretty and harmless but one should never put one’s hand into the tank to pat it!

“All her fingers puffed up like sausages and her whole arm was swollen. For one month, she lay in bed and couldn’t work. The bleeding did not stop until three months later. She only had sensation (of the hand that was stung) after six months!” said Lim, adding that the ray stung her very deep, hence the severity of her injury.

But Lim has heard that there were people who could return to work the next day after being stung by stingrays.

“The seriousness of the sting depends on how deep the sting is – but regardless, the pain is very severe.” said Lim.

The most tragic case involved “Crocodile Hunter” Steve Irwin, 44, who was killed by a stingray on Sept 4, 2006, while filming an underwater documentary, Ocean’s Deadlies, at Batt Reef, Queensland, Australia. He was pierced in the heart by a stingray barb.

Despite the threats posed by stingrays, Lim, a fish enthusiast, still enjoys his hobby of keeping them.

Stingrays can live in freshwater or seawater. You can find freshwater stingrays in the Amazon River but there are also other species of freshwater stingrays in other major rivers.

The stingrays that Lim rears are not endangered.

“They multiply quite well in their natural habitat with plentiful food and clean water. However, these stingrays are not easily found in local fish shops because of their high cost and low demand. Furthermore, it’s hard to keep them alive in the fish shop environment,” he said.

“Sellers usually sell pups, as adult rays are expensive and rare in the market. Even then, only one or two shops carry pups and sell them once a while. Hence, it’s very hard to buy these stingrays in local fish shops.”

In the early days of the P13 hobby craze in 2005, there were talks about very high-grade stingrays such as P13 Black Diamond (aka P13 BD). High quality adult P13 BDs were selling at S$30,000 (RM88,345) or more for a pair!

Due to their exorbitant prices and high demand, poaching has caused the Brazilian Government to ban the export of these rays from time to time.

Lim explained that the difference between P13 and P13 Black Diamond is that the BDs have polka dots along the rim of their disc. The white dots are brighter and closer together, and the body is darker too.

Later, commercial breeders began to meet the demand and ray prices were moderate but still, BD stingrays are considered one of the most expensive fish to keep. By the time Lim began the hobby (towards the end of 2010 with a pair of P13 rays he “inherited” from his daughter), a regular pair of Black Diamond pups cost about S$3,000 to S$6,000 (RM8,950 to RM17,885).