PETA — the animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment for Animals — has demanded that Paul the Psychic Octopus be set free. PETA believes that keeping Paul in confinement represents cruelty to animals.
An Uncommon Common Octopus
The Britain-born cephalopod mollusk became famous during the 2010 World Cup for correctly predicting eight out of eight matches. Resident in a German aquarium, Paul — who was named after the poem “Paul Octopus” by a German children’s book writer — is now officially in retirement, according to his keepers.
His owners claim that since Paul was born in captivity and spent all his life in an aquarium, he likely would die if he was released into the sea. He likely would not be able to fend for himself in the wild. Paul already is very old for his species.
Paul is a member of the species Octopus vulgaris — the common octopus. The common octopus is renowned for its intelligence and is capable of learning such tasks as opening up a jar by unscrewing the lid. In Paul’s native Britain, they are a protected species since 1986 due to their high intelligence.
The two-and-a-half-year-old cephalod currently lives at Sea Life Centre in Oberhausen, Germany, a suburb of Berlin. He was hatched from an egg at the Sea Life Centre in Weymouth, England in January 2010. There are rumors he was recently caught off the coast of Sicily, but they are untrue.
Sadly, Paul has been the subject of death threats, including threats from German soccer fans disgruntled that he “bet” against his home town team in the semi-final match with Spain. After the German national team beat Argentina i the quarter-finals, as Paul predicted, the Argentine coach Maradona posted a recipe for octopus on his Facebook page. (Paul had also corrected predicted Germany’s defeat by Serbia in their second match in the World Cup, but it did not provoke outrage as it didn’t hamper Germany’s drive to the cup.
Sadly, once Paul picked Spain over Germany, Germans turned on the animal oracle. The Spanish foreign minister offered to send body guards to protect him from being eaten.
Paul went into a business as a sports prognosticator during the 2008 UEFA European Football Championship. He was asked to predict matches the German national team was playing in by picking food from a clear plastic box festooned with the colors of Germany and the other country they would oppose during the match. (This was the similar modus operandi for Paul’s World Cup predictions. Opening up plastic boxes to retrieve food is part of his daily routine at the aquarium.)
He predicted four out of six of the matches correctly. Paul went for predicted Germany in all six contests in 2008, and the national team lost two. Germany was beaten by Spain in that contest, too, in the final round.
This year, Germany was done in by Spain in the semi-finals during the World Cup. Germans were dismayed with Paul’s prediction, considering it a betrayal. Subsequently, the octopus did correctly predict that Germany would beat Uruguay in the playoff to determine the runner-up to the top two teams, and he was right: Germany wound up in 3rd place. Paul also correctly predicted Spain would beat Netherlands in the final.
Predicting Paul’s Future
Since the common octopus has a three- to five-year life span, Paul may not be alive when 2012 UEFA European Football Championship is held. However, there has been no shortage of job offers and opportunities.
Reportedly, one New York investment bank wants Paul to predict currency fluctuations. A Japanese firm wants Paul to grace its fortune-teller machines. A Spanish restaurant chain has offered a great deal of money to have Paul come and sit in an aquarium at one of their restaurants.
All such offers have been turned down. Sea Life Centre spokesperson Tanja Munzig said that the octopus’s 15-minutes of fame in the world media are over.
“Paul really enjoyed the attention,” she said, “but now he is going to go back to his old job, entertaining visitors and putting a smile on the faces of the children.”
The Psychic Octopus was given a reward by the aquarium. A shiny gold replica of the World Cup trophy was put into his tank, and he promptly wrapped his tentacles around it.