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