Wednesday, July 31, 2019

UPDATE: Eleanora's big day approaches

It’s almost Eleanora’s big day, when we release this beautiful giant Pacific octopus to seek her fortune in the Salish Sea!

by Ali Redman, PTMSC Aquarist

Eleanora, the giant Pacific octopus that took up residence at the PTMSC
in September 2018. Photo by Florian Graner.

We are getting giddy butterflies in our stomachs, the mix of elation and nerves that you feel when you release something you’ve nurtured. I’ve felt it on my son’s first day of school, with students I’ve mentored, and with animals being reintroduced into the wild. You wonder if they are prepared for the challenges, but most of all you are excited for the opportunities ahead of them. The feeling of excitement for her impending departure (mixed with a few nerves) is shared by everyone who has come to care about her including members, visitors, volunteers and staff.

PTMSC Aquarist Ali Redman observing Eleanora in the winter of 2018-19.
Photo by Wendy Feltham. 
Despite a relatively brief 10 months with us, Eleanora has had a large impact. She arrived a small and somewhat shy octopus that could fit in your hands. Now at nine feet tentacle tip to tentacle tip and growing larger by the day, she is less vulnerable to hungry predators and ready to explore.

She has delighted staff and visitors alike, amazing us with her curiosity, keen intelligence and agility. Over 14,000 visitors have been able to get “up close and personal” with her since her arrival in September 2018. They have watched as she deftly manipulated puzzles during enrichment sessions (video), explored her kelp forest exhibit or rested in her den. 
PTMSC Aquarist, Ali Redman (lower right) and AmeriCorps Aquarium Educator Marley Loomis (upper right)
conduct an enrichment feeding session with Eleanora, to the fascination and delight of Aquarium visitors.

Watch Eleanora extract some treats from a long clear pipe. "Puzzle feeders" like this one 
mimic food-seeking activities and problem solving she might engage in the wild.

Eleanora’s reach as an ambassador for marine conservation will go even farther. As a subject of biologist and videographer Florian Graner’s Octopus Learning Project on octopus intelligence, described in his November 2018 Future of Oceans lecture, Eleanora will have an international audience and further the Port Townsend Marine Science Center’s mission of inspiring conservation. 

The next exciting step for Eleanora may be parenthood. Once mature, she will have the opportunity to mate and lay eggs. If successful she will live long enough to tend to her eggs, while not eating during this brooding period. Once they hatch she will pass away, but her offspring will go on to play a role in the Salish Sea ecosystem and perpetuate this amazing species.
Eleanora's growth has been phenomenal, as evidenced by this May 2019 picture 
taken by PTMSC Marketing & Development Coordinator Brian Kay.

Over the next few weeks, we will devise a plan to return Eleanora to the location she originated from. It will be a carefully coordinated process involving many team members. Graner hopes to document her activities after release by paying repeat visits to the release site. To keep up to date on our progress and activities related to Eleanora, follow us on Facebook.
We are grateful for our time with this amazing animal. She has been an ambassador for the Salish Sea, helping thousands of people experience the beauty, wonder and importance of our marine environment. Join us in wishing Eleanora “Bon Voyage!”

Eleanora in repose. Photo by Florian Graner. 

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