Beloved octopus ‘whisperer’ to be honored after nearly 8,000 hours of volunteer service

BOSTON (WHDH) - A beloved ctopus “whisperer” will be honored Thursday evening after logging nearly 8,000 hours of volunteer service at the New England Aquarium.

Wilson Menashi, a retired engineer, has been volunteering at the aquarium for about 25 years. About three of those years have been spent alongside Freya, a 40-pound octopus with a 14-foot span across her extended tentacles.

Menashi, 84, is often found with Freya’s tentacles wrapped around him. While octopuses don’t actually have ears, Menashi has still found a way to connect with the sea creatures.

Menashi says he started volunteering at the aquarium at the suggestion of his daughter, who understood his passion for fish and the water.

Wilson Menashi

He has helped biologist Bill Murphy care for and habituate new octopuses to their exhibits, according to the aquarium. He is one of the first volunteers to ever touch an octopus and is said to have a keen eye for their personalities and behaviors.

Feeding the eight-armed cephalopods has since evolved into periods of extended enrichment activities with the octopuses interacting with staff.

Menashi, utilizing his background, developed box puzzles to help the animals pass the time.

“They were all so bored,” he said. “We made some different toys and different puzzles for them to solve so they would have something to do.”

Since octopuses are short-lived in aquariums and the wild with four years being a near maximum life expectancy, Menashi has worked with many generations.

In addition to Menashi, 1,000 other volunteers will be honored by the aquarium.

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