By Jess Grieveson-Smith
A giant venomous stingray – the very same type that killed Steve Irwin – loves nothing more than being petted by humans after residing at a busy harbour.
Esther Jacobs, 39, enjoyed the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet Parrie – a short-tailed stingray who has been named by locals – while visiting a harbour in Struisbaai, South Africa.
Perrie measures a staggering 4.3 metres in length [14 FEET] and 2.1 metres in width [6 FEET] has a long barbed tail with venom which can be fatal to humans.
Esther, who is a marine conservationist, said: “You can see in the video that the ray keeps her tail bent away from me.
“When I saw this amazing animal, I had to get close to them, seeing how they were more than comfortable with human interaction.”
In a series of jaw-dropping clips, Esther manages to show the ray’s friendliness towards humans.
Esther, from neighbouring Mosselbaai added: “Parrie the stingray is a resident at the Struisbaai harbour, she’s hung around the harbour for several years, lured in by the fishing boats.
“Now, several of these rays are regulars in the harbour. They are icons, and the visiting kids and adults alike love to head out onto the wooden pier to watch them follow the boats in.
“It’s been a huge ambition of mine to visit the rays for years now so when I was invited to go to Struisbaai, I knew I had to see the rays as a top priority.
“I popped to the harbour in the early evening and a couple of the rays were hanging around, including Parrie.
“I got in with my GoPro, in water up to my knees, and just waited for the rays to approach me.
“I didn’t at all chase them, or try to command their attention. I just let them come to me when they wanted to, and had my GoPro at the ready.
“Parrie was amazing – she kept head butting my shins until I rubbed her between the eyes.
“If I stopped, she would do a little spin and head butt me again – it was one of the most euphoric experiences I’ve ever had and I’ve worked with white sharks and other sharks for eight years now!”
Esther – founder of Keep Fin Alive, a campaign to dispel misconceptions about sharks – spent around 45 minutes with the rays, managing to capture incredible footage of the sea life.
The sea creatures are viewed as dangerous due to the venom in the barbed tail, but the fish rarely use it as they are typically quite shy – only using it to kill small fish and protect themselves.
She added: “Parrie and her friends are just something else – they are full of personality and not at all threatening, despite the large barb on the tail.
“I was completely mesmerised and drawn to the water – I was blessed with Parrie herself coming right up to me and head butting me until I ‘petted’ her by rubbing between her eyes.
“It was one of the most amazing, exhilarating and special moments of my life.”