Kind scuba divers try to convince a tiny octopus to trade its plastic cup for a shell

Sometimes taking care of our beautiful home planet looks like big, broad policies tackling issues like plastic pollution and habitat destruction. And sometimes it looks like taking the time to help one tiny creature in an environmental bind.

In a YouTube video that’s been viewed a whopping 18 million times, we see an example of the latter in action as a group of divers attempt to convince an octopus to abandon the plastic cup it’s using for protection and trade it for a sturdy shell. Pall Sigurdsson has shared dozens of underwater videos on YouTube, but watching this particular video from a dive off the coast of Lembeh, Indonesia almost feels like watching a Pixar short film.

“We spent a whole dive and most of our air saving this octopus from what was bound to be a cruel fate,” Sigurdsson wrote in the description of the video.

“The coconut octopus, also known as veined octopus, is born with the instinct to protect itself by creating a mobile home out of coconut or clam shells. This particular individual however has been trapped by their instincts and have made a home out of a plastic cup they found underwater.”

Sigurdsson explained that a predator like an eel or a flouder would probably end up swallowing the cup with the octopus in it, likely killing both of them.

“We tried for a long time to give it shells hoping that it would trade the shell,” he wrote. “Coconut octopus are famous for being very picky about which shells they keep so we had to try with many different shells before it found one to be acceptable.”

If you think an octopus in a cup making a decision about shells doesn’t sound riveting, just watch:

Octo in a cup

The tentacles reaching out to test the weight of each shell, the divers searching for more options to offer it, the suspense of wondering whether the octopus really would abandon its pathetic plastic pollution protection…it’s just too much.

Funny how one small interaction in one tiny portion of the vast ocean can say so much about us, for better and for worse. Human pollution is an enormous problem and saving one little octopus won’t save the world, but it sure gives us hope and motivation to keep trying.

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