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You’ve Been Punked! By an Octopus

Written by PETA | November 11, 2008
csudh / CC

It’s not often that we post an entry about octopi, but this story is definitely worth the mention.

When employees at the Sea Star Aquarium in Coburg, Germany, were puzzled by the constant short-circuiting of lights, they thought it was a result of technical difficulties. It turns out, however, that Otto the octopus was just trying to get the irritating light turned off. Maybe he’d read that study about how having lights on at night can interfere with your sleep.

It took three days and the detective work of several employees to learn of Otto’s clever antics, which included climbing to the rim of his tank and squirting water at the lights above to turn them off. The cephalopod has also been caught redecorating his tank by tossing its contents around, throwing rocks at the tank glass, and juggling hermit crabs.

Otto’s pranks may be amusing—especially when they’re fooling humans—but they’re also a sign that he is bored out of his mind and not receiving the stimulation that any intelligent being needs. They are a cry for attention. Signs of boredom and loneliness are the norm among animals who are imprisoned in tiny, barren spaces; and they can be dangerous too. When the electricity short-circuited, it shut down all the filters and water pumps, putting not only Otto in danger but the other marine life as well. And the hermit crabs most likely didn’t enjoy being tossed around.

Octopi are highly intelligent animals with sharp short-term and long-term memory skills. Instead of buying new toys and keeping an eye on Otto, as the aquarium’s director has suggested, we vote that he should be released into the ocean where he can live a natural and full life in his vast native environment. All the toys in the world aren’t going to make any difference for an animal who is crammed into a tiny, unfamiliar living space that lacks the proper kind of stimulation.


Written by Jennifer Cierlitsky

Commenting is closed.
  • Belle says:

    Vegancoin if you think that it is not a ridiculous thing to dump an animal that was born and raised in captivity into a completely unfamiliar environment where he does not know how to fend or defend for himself to die I’m not quite sure where you get your logic from. If your dog was bored at home and shredded your furniture to pieces would you just throw him into a field to live like a wild dog as the only solution? No you would find some alternate source of stimulation for him whether that be a dogsitter a pen outside a companion different toys there are dozens of possibilities! I’m not debating the ethics of zoos or aquariums. I’m stating the facts that for this octupus that is ALREADY in captivity there is no way way can turn back time and release him into the ocean as a baby so we have to deal with the current situation and consider the best for the animal. Which is not to dump him into the ocean.

  • joanna says:

    Otto’s environment CAN be much more suited to his needs. There are big aquariums that try very hard to make life better for the captive animals they have. For example they can create a ‘tank’ that is actually a maze so that the animal gets to ‘roam’ through the maze with a little bit of the affect they have in nature. In a normal tank the animals just pace or circle which makes them progressivily more crazy. Also changing objects and plants and making it possible for the animal to manipulate something to get its food can give the captive something to do while in the tank. kind of like peanut butter in a kong for your dog Otto obviously has the energy to do something. Sometimes certain tank mates make life less stresfull…oh yeah…and try using lighting controls that simulate natural light…with sun rise sun set fades and moon cycles. Sounds extreme but some hobbists do this to create better environment for the captives. Marine life is very sensitive to natural light cycles. Once removed from their natural environment they are forever dependant on people for this care. If Otto can’t go home at least give him a decent replacement.

  • drew says:

    Well I will pray for Otto as I do for each being as one I pray for. It is a sad situation for sure. But the wild is also a really harsh place. I think dumping Otto there at this point could be doing a terrible thing as people have suggested? I know! Maybe Obama can adopt Otto! No allergy problems! Yeah build him a nice big tank at the whitehouse? I don’t really know what’s best for him.

  • Swemmel says:

    The people who are so adamant about putting Otto back in the ocean miss the point that that would cause him to !DIE! While it would be better if the animals weren’t in captivity in the first place it’s much to late to set Otto or most other captive animals free. At this point if what we actually care about is the animals welfare it’s better for them to remain alive in captivity in improved conditions than to be dumped to DIE in the wild.

  • vegancoin says:

    “This concept of animals only being able to be happy in the wilderness is ridiculous.” The concept of animals being happy and satisfied in a confined enclosure small imitation glass tank or a cage is infinitely more ridiculous. All animals including Otto the octopus belong in their natural environment in a habitat undisturbed by mans foolish and inhumane progress.

  • Maya, CVT says:

    I’m not sure where people are getting their information but PLEASE don’t get your information from laypeople. Find a wildlife biologist or a wildlife rehabilitator that you respect. Get the TRUTH from them. There is a crucial stage in life where any wild animal learns what it needs to learn to survive in the wild. Even under the best circumstances a large percentage of young wild animals will die. Learning begins at birth and continues to adulthood. If a wild animal misses ANY part of this learning process they are doomed. IT IS EXTREMELY CRUEL TO TAKE AN AQUARIUM ANIMAL AND DUMP IT INTO THE OCEAN. Now don’t get me wrong I am disgusted by zoos and aquariums. They need to stop breeing animals for our entertainment. It is wrong selfish and cruel. People like PETA have their hearts in the right place but if they don’t do their research then the animals they are trying to help will suffer terribly.

  • Julia says:

    I’ve heard that it only takes domestic animals three weeks to revert to a wild mindset when placed back into their natural habitat so maybe Otto would be able to do the same. Go Otto go!

  • Kelly says:

    This is so sad. People are evil.

  • lynda downie says:

    Maybe it’s time for Otto to get out and be a daddy! That’s what happens with octopi octopuses? at the Marine Science Centre at Oregon State U. Since they have short lifespans about a yr they’re released into the ocean at 9 mo. old so they can reproduce. No more pranks in his tank Otto needs to be about his baby makin’ business!

  • SASHA says:

    I really learned alot. I would like to read more about “SEALIFE” animals on the blogg. This was a great story! Thanks PETA!

  • Heather says:

    While I can understand why in the first place he would have been better off in the wild as nature intended the Ocean is the unfamiliar territory to him now. Otto has known only his tank for the longest time he wouldn’t survive a week in the merciless seas. Too little too late PETA. But I do agree with the message and hope in the future people learn to respect these marvelous creatures and leave them where they came from.

  • NT says:

    Poor thing. I know the time will come when aquariums will be illegal. Maybe not in our lifetime…

  • emily w says:


  • Kelley says:

    Octopi are amazing animals and they certainly don’t belong in glass tanks where people can stare at them all day!

  • Shari says: If a group of beings beings who considered themselves as superior Illuminati to YOU as you feel yourself to be to other animals…would you concede them the rights OVER YOU that YOU assume over other animals? I think no…I KNOW NOT!!! The meat industry’s and ALL other exploiters ‘holocaust’ towards animals is just an example of the plans THEY have for you. DON’T let history repeat itself. Resist and Prepare before it’s too late. httpwww.facebook.comgroup.php?gid36012715829 The New World Order Resistance Movement Join The Movement “We NEED You All” Secret societies can NOT remain secret when exposed! Peace Love Truth Forget ALL distractions NOT relevant to survival! Turn On Tune in WAKE UP!!! ‘because there is a war on FOR your mind!’Damnation WITHOUT investigation IS the height of ignorance. P.S. Damnation WITHOUT investigation IS the height of ignorance ‘

  • yf says:’s high time they got THIS critter out of its stifling cramped tank and back where heshe belongs.. ie. back in the wide open ocean.. so.. any chance of it happenin’ soon? hope so.. ps. I never know octopus were that smart! gee!

  • Belle says:

    Even if an animal in an aquarium isas you say”incredibly bored” just throwing him into the ocean is NOT the solution. If he was born and raised in captivityit would be the most cruel thing to do to just toss him into an unfamiliar environment and expect him to thrive there on the basis that “that is what he was meant to do.” Unless you want to provide him with some sort of octopus 12step program chances are Otto isn’t going to live. A more rational planas the aquarium director already suggested would be to improve the tank conditions to be more stimulating to the octopus. This concept of animals only being able to be happy in the wilderness is ridiculous. Especially in this case where this octopus does not know anything about the wild. It’s like throwing your dog into a field and expecting him to form a pack and go hunting. Not gonna happen.

  • Maya, CVT says:

    I’m with you guys on the boredom what a miserable way to spend a lifetime!! How sad he needs a new tank and a better life. HOWEVER if you think releasing him into the ocean is a good idea you guys should just find a shark tank and toss Otto in there. It would be quicker than dumping him into the ocean where he would get terribly ill confused and be shark bait in no time at all. As terrible as it is that he will never see his natural habitat he’d only last a few miserable weeks at best in the ocean. Please keep promoting better enclosures for octopus and please help us stop aquariums from getting new marine animals to enslave!! I thank you for focusing on this critter they are very special to my heart.

  • Alexandra says:

    I love octopi and I think it’s really sad that people would keep them in a tank just for their own entertainment. I am a vegan and I believe in what peta says. “Animals are not ours to eat wear use for entertainment or experiment on”.