Octopus Enrichment Program
The Octopus Enrichment Program provides the giant Pacific
octopus opportunities for exploration and interaction similar
to that observed in the wild. It also seeks to reduce the
frequency of octopus jetting and crashing into the side of
its tank. The adjoining behavioral study serves to evaluate
the animal’s reaction to specific objects.
- Five days a week, during a four-week period, an object
is introduced on the scheduled day. The initial objects
(jar, rubber dog toys, PVC tube, etc.) have no connection
with the octopus’s natural habitat. The resulting
behaviors are natural species-specific behaviors. With each
introduction, the octopus’s behavior is recorded to
identify its level of interaction with the object. A one
week break of no introductions is followed by another cycle
of four weeks of introductions. After several months a food
aspect is associated with the objects introduced, such as
a shrimp within a rubber dog toy.
- The tank's walls have irregularities
(including shelves, archways, and three doors) allowing
the octopus to move through it and interact with it. This
creates a key element of complexity. Water movement providing
a water curtain on the tank’s edge will hopefully
indicate to the octopus the edge of the tank, reducing the
frequency of wall crashing.
Documentation and record keeping:
Octopus behavior data is recorded on an ethogram with each
object introduction. Recording begins ten minutes prior to
the object’s introduction and continues for two hours.
Behaviors such as staying in place (clinging, arm movement),
moving (arm walking, hanging in water), and jetting (hop,
slam) are recorded at thirty second intervals initially and
then at ten minute intervals to identify initial as well as
residual interaction. Enrichment sessions are recorded on
staff daily reports and behavior data sheets compiled in a
Evaluation and Adjustment:
The continued use of an object is determined by the octopus’s
qualitative and quantitative interaction with it. Discussions
of the octopus enrichment occur weekly during unit meetings.
Analysis of the behavior observation data will provide more
detailed information. When planning the enrichment calendar
for the month, the Invertebrate staff remove or add objects
to the calendar. At the end of each four-week data collection
segment observers are consulted for feedback.
Subsequent Program Refinement:
Future program development plans include developing objects
and puzzles that require more than one kind of manipulation
to explore. In addition, creating physical changes with interchangeable
internal surfaces and adding large interchangeable acrylic
tunnels to annex the tank will be considered. The resulting
observation data will begin to more definitively identify
which objects and activity in and around the tank result in
reactions that encourage exploration and enrich the octopus.