Senior Aquarist ‘Dances’ to Salsa Music With a Friendly Giant Pacific Octopus at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

René Carbajal, the senior aquarist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium showed what it’s like to take care of their resident giant Pacific octopuses with a very friendly cephalopod named Chica, whom he lured to the side of the tank for feeding time. He said that he likes to play salsa music for her and believes she appreciates it because Chica will “dance” with him while he checks the status of her health.

I play some salsa ’cause I love salsa, it spices up my mornings. She seems to have a positive reaction to the music. … I put my phone and I’ll play the music, the salsa, and then as she comes and interacts with me. It’s a good way for us to check her muscles, to check her body, her eyes and her skin. And I use her arms to rock them back and forth and she just grips me with her suckers. She’ll grab me really hard and then we do a little dance until one of us get tired, which is usually me.

Carbajal also said that this whole process is very enriching for Chica, as it gets her moving and interacting. He also appreciated the bonding that takes place during this time.

She’s eating some food, but she’s definitely here just for the interaction. This is a good enrichment for them because they’re using their muscles, they’re using their senses to come for the food. Each sucker senses the chemicals in your skin, pretty much she can sense the taste of your skin. Anyone who comes and experience how the sucker feel like, they say it’s something like they never experienced before and it’s almost a sensation of a bonding with the animal.

The Team Uses Food in Other Ways as Enrichment Exercises

Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails.