Kit Thornton, chief aquarist at the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea, plays with Wanda, the female Giant Pacific octopus currently residing at the centre. The centre will release Wanda back into the wild next month. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

Kit Thornton, chief aquarist at the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea, plays with Wanda, the female Giant Pacific octopus currently residing at the centre. The centre will release Wanda back into the wild next month. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

An octopus named Wanda will soon say goodbye to Sidney

Wanda’s personality is ‘complete opposite’ of previous octopus named after Dr. Bonnie Henry

Wanda, the giant Pacific octopus currently residing at Sidney’s Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea, has come by her nickname honestly.

“We call her handsy,” said Kit Thornton, chief aquarist. “She really likes to play. She will leave sucker-marks, like hickies, on your arm after play.”

This touchy-feely aspect of Wanda’s personality becomes obvious a little bit later when Thornton feeds Wanda shrimp frozen in ice cubs and entertains her with a ball and other assorted toys. As Thornton strokes the animal’s head, Wanda’s tentacles start to cling to Thronton’s bare arms and hands with outer tips touching the fabric of Thornton’s rolled-up sleeves.

“It’s like wrestling with a Kraken,” she said.

Wanda (who is believed to be somewhere in the middle of her three-to-five-year lifespan) arrived in Sidney in December, weighing eight pounds, from the waters just off Ucluelet.

Wanda’s personality is the “complete opposite” from the previous occupant of her tank, Henry, named after provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, with Thornton describing Henry — the animal — as very relaxed and calm.

RELATED: Shaw Centre for Salish in Sidney ‘cautiously optimistic’ about the future

RELATED: Sidney octopus named after Dr. Bonnie Henry scheduled to swim away next week

Wanda received her name through an online contest held in January. The centre’s two volunteers with the highest number of donated hours — 3,000 and 2,000 hours — had previously come up with eight names, which also included Taylor, Wendy, Michaela, Wilma, Maria, Whoopi, and Hannah.

Tina Kelly, director of learning and communications, said past naming contests have centred around a theme (like women scientists), with members of the public voting with paper ballots placed in front of the octopus tanks, a procedure not available during the COVID-19 pandemic. Accordingly, the naming contest for Wanda moved online.

“What is great about the contest is that it gives our community and our members and the public an opportunity to participate in the process and get people active outside the centre,” said Kelly. “This time, in particular, we really made sure that was a part of the contest, that people outside had to vote.”

Whether the public chose Wanda because of the movie A Fish Called Wanda is not clear, but visitors have historically accepted the winning choices, said Kelly, adding that it creates a connection. “We have had visitors who will come in and ask about octopus we had two years ago. Just on Sunday, I had a little boy come in and say, ‘where’s Dr. Henry?’”

He left the the centre in mid-December when staff released him into the Pacific Ocean, where Wanda will join him in about four to six weeks.

For Thornton, this period will feature a whole range of emotions.

“It’s always a bit bitter-sweet,” said Thornton, when asked about Wanda’s pending departure. “You do build a relationship with them over the four to six months that they are here. You are really glad to be seeing them go back to the ocean and then the hope is that they will reproduce and have offspring out there. And then there is a bit of excitement about meeting the new octopus coming and build that relationship up. So there is a whole bunch of feelings, but overwhelmingly it is positive.”


Do you have a story tip? Email: vnc.editorial@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

Saanich Peninsula

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Malahat SkyWalk will open to visitors in July 2021. (Malahat SkyWalk photo)
Malahat SkyWalk will open to visitors this July

Highly anticipated attraction will take guests 250m above sea level

Victoria police say the photo they circulated of an alleged cat thief was actually a woman taking her own cat to the vet. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Victoria police circulated photo of alleged cat thief actually woman with her own cat

Police learned the she didn’t steal Penelope the cat, and was actually taking her cat to the vet

Allayah Yoli Thomas had recently turned 12 years old when she died of a suspected drug overdose April 15. (Courtesy of Adriana Londono)
Suspected overdose death of Saanich girl, 12, speaks to lack of supports, says mom

Allayah Yoli Thomas was found dead by her friend the morning of April 15

Illegal goods seized in the simultaneous April 23 busts in Saanich and Sooke. (Courtesy of West Shore RCMP)
RCMP drug busts net trucks, cocaine, cash and Hells Angels gear

Simultaneous searches coordinated between West Shore, Saanich and Sooke police

The Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre on Wilkinson Road in Saanich. (Black Press Media file photo)
Police watchdog investigates after man found unresponsive at Saanich jail

Man was in Victoria police custody the day before being found

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of May 4

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: Do you plan to travel on the Victoria Day long weekend?

It’s the unofficial start to the summer season. A time of barbecues,… Continue reading

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent sails past a iceberg in Lancaster Sound, Friday, July 11, 2008. The federal government is expected to end nearly two years of mystery today and reveal its plan to build a new, long overdue heavy icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver, Quebec shipyards to each get new heavy icebreaker, cost remains a mystery

Vancouver’s Seaspan Shipyards and Quebec-based Chantier Davie will each build an icebreaker for the coast guard

More than 6,000 camping reservations in British Columbia were cancelled as a result of a provincial order limiting travel between health regions. (Unsplash)
1 in 4 camping reservations cancelled in B.C. amid COVID-19 travel restrictions

More than 6,500 BC Parks campsite reservations for between April 19 and May 25 have been revoked

People line up for COVID-19 vaccination at a drop-in clinic at Cloverdale Recreation Centre on Wednesday, April 27, 2021. Public health officials have focused efforts on the Fraser Health region. (Aaron Hinks/Peace Arch News)
B.C. reports first vaccine-induced blood clot; 684 new COVID cases Thursday

Two million vaccine doses reached, hospital cases down

(File)
With revenge porn on the rise in 2021, B.C. seeks feedback for new legislation

New legislation could help victims take down images and receive compensation

Port Alberni RCMP are investigating a homicide on Third Avenue. (SUSAN QUINN / Alberni Valley News)
RCMP investigating homicide in Port Alberni apartment

Investigators are still trying to determine the identity of the deceased

Most Read