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Octopus playtime at Living Coasts

We’re used to seeing primates and big cats in top modern zoos with toys and puzzles. But an octopus at Living Coasts in Devon seems to be outdoing them all.

Whether they’re specially-designed or ingeniously repurposed waste items, playthings provide mental and physical stimulation and encourage the sort of behaviours the animals might have to use to survive in the wild.

Photo courtesy Living Coasts Kraken, a common octopus at Torquay’s coastal zoo, has different things to play with almost every day. Aquarist Sam Worthington: “She has toys of differing weights, textures and colours, including a spikey ball. Her favourite is a rubber fish.”

In addition, Kraken is very good at opening plastic food tubs with click tops and unscrewing the lids of pots. Of course, when it comes to playtime, having eight arms is a bit of an advantage. Sam again: “She also enjoys it when we pour water into the tank – it’s the sensation, pressure and currents.”

This young octopus – common by name but decidedly uncommon by nature – has been at Torquay’s coastal zoo for less than a year. Previous octopuses (they are a short-lived species) have confounded staff with their ability to solve three-dimensional puzzles. Kraken was named by public vote on the Living Coasts Facebook page.

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