Sassy Sally puts a new twist on an old reliable

Giant Pacific Octopus winning fans at Ukee Aquarium.

While Spanky the baby and Jeremiah the Red have brought new uniqueness to the Ucluelet Aquarium experience, Sassy Sally is doing her part to ensure the aquarium’s staple-feature remains a fan favourite.

Sassy Sally is a roughly year-and-a-half old Giant Pacific Octopus who was collected in Tofino in July to replace Bowie, the aquarium’s former Giant Pacific, who returned to the ocean in phenomenal shape, according to aquarium curator Laura Griffith-Cochrane.

“Bowie was wonderful. Bowie was really successful, he was putting on weight and growing quickly and being active and that was awesome,” she said.

She said Sassy Sally has darker colourations, closer to maroon and cream than the traditional red and white, and a more spectator-friendly attitude than her predecessor.

“Bowie was almost a little bit lazy. He liked to pull crabs into his den to eat them, you would see a couple of arms come out and an eye watching the crab as he pulled things into his den,” she said.

“(Sassy Sally) is a little bit more active about hunting and will eat crabs while pressed up against the acrylic, which is really cool because you can see the body of the crab being surrounded by the body of the octopus and that’s pretty exciting for visitors.”

She noted the aquarium tries to have a juvenile 5-10 pound Giant Pacific Octopus like Sassy Sally on display at all times.

“People are really fascinated by them. They’re very intelligent and they have a different kind of intelligence than humans have,” she said.

“They behave and move in an incredibly different way, they’re very charismatic, and they react to people. You can see colour changes, you can see interest and you can see a variation of behaviours depending on who they’re watching and who’s watching them so I think people are really excited about them, they’re something that’s so different from us.”

She added there are many things the aquarium can learn from animals.

“There’s always more knowledge to gain,” she said.

“We actually don’t know a lot about our oceans, comparatively, so anything we can learn helps with future aspects of animal care, future research projects and helps build our knowledge of how human behaviours create interactions with these species.”

BC is home to the largest Giant Pacific Octopuses in the world with our local species living up to about five years and reaching 70 kilograms, according to Griffith-Cochrane.

“We have the largest octopuses in the world because we have this nice fresh cold nutrient rich water,” she said.

She added aquarium staff must keep an extremely keen eye on water quality.

“Octopuses need a huge amount of oxygen so we have to be very careful. We have to monitor our water quality. We have to make sure that our flows are very, very, high and that we’re pumping in lots and lots of water,” she said adding the aquarium pumps through about 980 litres of water per minute.

“If water was moving slowly, so that it was using up a lot of that oxygen in the tank, it would be like a person hiking around the top of Mt. Everest; you would be using a lot of energy trying to get oxygen through your system.”

 

andrew.bailey@westerlynews.ca