DINGLE Oceanworld Aquarium has denied that Vinny, the octopus found in Schull, is under suspicion for stealing lobsters.
However, the staff are ‘observing’ Vinny at close quarters, amidst the claim the species is so clever it can practically open jars.
Vincent O’Regan’s discovery of his Mediterranean namesake – in a lobster pot while fishing two miles off Goleen Bay – was first revealed in The Southern Star last month, but it was Kerry publican Billy Keane’s commentary on the story on RTÉ’s Today show that led to the ‘jar challenge’.
Billy had claimed Vinny was being watched after a number of lobsters had ‘gone missing’ and noted the species is so clever, they could almost open a ‘jar of beetroot’ after watching a human open one.
But Dr Kevin Flannery, a marine biologist at the aquarium, confirmed that Vinny was not, in fact, suspected of stealing any lobsters.
Kevin said: ‘That was just Billy having the craic.’
However, the assertion that an octopus can learn how to open jars is being dealt with a bit more seriously.
Kevin confirmed that he has put up a webcam to see if Vinny will mimic his actions.
‘We put up the webcam so we could watch how he camouflages himself, what he preys on, and how he moves, because they are such fascinating creatures,’ said the marine biologist.
Kevin is confident that his jar-opening test will be successful because he has done it before with others.
‘Vinny is quite large, so we are going to let him get used to his new environment first, and not stress him out. But we will keep you posted on the results.’
Kevin finds the species, which are actually a shellfish, ‘totally mesmerising,’ much like the videographer of My Octopus Teacher on Netflix.
He said he also found the work of a German psychologist who studied them in Ireland, a few years ago, rather remarkable.
‘They would come for food when he rang a bell, and they could work their way through a maze,’ he said.
‘It’s just one of the reasons they are a protected species and cannot be used for harmful experiments,’ noted Kevin.