Posts Tagged 'animal enrichment'

Happy Birthday, Beau!

Beau, one of the National Aquarium’s male dolphins, is turning 7 years old today!

Beau smiling at this morning’s birthday fish feeding

Beau day one

Beau with mom Nani, on his first day of life

During one of today’s enrichment sessions in Dolphin Discovery, we’ll be creating a big birthday card for Beau, made out of a shower curtain. The trainers also have some special birthday enrichment toys for him and a nice, tasty fishcicle—his favorite!

Beau, at one week old

Guests can stop by the birthday pledge station anytime today to leave their birthday wishes for Beau, and pledge to help his friends in the wild.

Beau’s 1st birthday

If you can’t make it to the National Aquarium, Baltimore, today, leave your birthday wishes for Beau in the comments section below!


The life of an octopus

Paul the Octopus, who captivated the world this summer with his accurate World Cup predictions, passed away last week at the age of 2 1/2. He was a resident of the Sea Life Aquarium in Germany. They reported that their beloved octopus died of natural causes. If you don’t know anything about the life of an octopus, you must be wondering why he died of natural causes at just 2 1/2.

Truth be told, the life span of a giant Pacific octopus is relatively short for such a large animal. They typically live to only 3 to 5 years of age, and don’t live to see their offspring.

Octopuses only reproduce once, and sadly, this event comes near the end of their life. After mating, the females lays up to 100,000 (often fewer) eggs and then stops eating. She remains with the eggs to protect them until they hatch, then she dies.  The male octopus also dies shortly after mating, but does not assist in protecting the eggs.

In such a short time, however, they grow an astonishing amount!  When an octopus hatches it is almost microscopic.  The young float in the water column. As plankton, they consume food and grow very quickly.  Within their first year they can grow to several pounds or more.  The size of a mature octopus often varies with each individual, but the largest recorded giant Pacific octopus weighed in at 156 pounds!

At the National Aquarium, we currently have two giant Pacific octopuses, Arya (approximately 35-pound female on exhibit) and Kraken (smaller, approximately 10-15-pound male in backup).  Arya came to us about a year ago and weighed just 5 pounds when she arrived!  She laid eggs in June and has exhibited a change in behavior consistent with senescence in females, although she is still eating off and on.  Kraken was also only about 5 pounds when he arrived in the spring.  His age is uncertain, as an octopus’s size doesn’t necessarily reflect its age.

Even though the life of an octopus is short, we do our best to keep them stimulated while they live here at the Aquarium. Did you know that their brain capacity is said to be similar to or somewhat more than that of a dog?! Each day aquarists conduct enrichment exercises to encourage cognitive thinking and natural hunting behaviors. Our octopuses are given a variety of items such as baby or dog toys, and puzzles like closed jars with food inside to keep them occupied.  Check out this video of  an octopus in action!

Holiday gifts for the animals

It’s a time of giving at the National Aquarium. Each year around the holidays Aquarium staff members come together to build new enrichment toys for the animals. enrichment2Animals, like people, need to play, exercise, and be creative each day. The animal care staff works hard throughout the year to think of new ways of making everyday materials into items that enhance the animals’ environments and stimulate their minds.

Last week staffers were busy working to finish the items in time for the holidays!  At the end of the day there was a room filled with bird toys and perches from colorful wooden blocks and PVC pipes, reptile hides/caves from carpet, a play gym from hula hoops for the birds, new colorful hoops for the dolphins, foraging boards from turf and fleece for the tamarins, a sleeping nest from a barrel for the sloths, a new target poles for training the rescued sea turtles and more!

Visitors also had the opportunity to build enrichment items for their pets at home. Click here to learn fun and easy ways to enrich the lives of your pets at home.

Have any interesting ways that you enrich your pet’s environment? Please share with us!

Happy Birthday, Foster!

Foster, an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin calf born at the Aquarium on September 9, 2007, is one year old today!

The dolphin trainers held a small birthday party for Foster, presenting him with special toys and plenty of well wishes. Foster’s mom, Jade, and a few other dolphins even joined in the fun! Click here to see the video!

Visitors will have the opportunity to share in the celebration this week during dolphin shows and can puchase special birthday cupcakes at the Aquariums’ cafes through Sunday, September 14. For each cupcake sold, $.50 will go toward puchasing enrichment items for Foster and friends!

Daily enrichment and play is an important part of a dolphin’s life at the Aquarium. For more information on how you can donate items to the Aquarium’s animals, visit

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