The Next Paul? Ukraine’s Pavlik the Octopus ‘Learning’ Psychic Skills

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Paul the octopus got a monument after his passing. Can Pavlik live up to his predecessor?

REUTERS/Alex Domanski

Think of it as the second coming of the psychic octopus. Authorities at an aquarium in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, are now championing their own tentacled little guy, Pavlik, as the successor  to Paul, the now deceased mollusk-munching cephalopod whose supposed uncanny ability to “predict” scores in last year’s soccer World Cup won him global renown.

(More on TIME.com: See Paul in the top 10 fleeting celebrities of 2010)

But there’s a catch. It’s unclear whether Pavlik — the Slavic form for Paul — is, well, psychic. Officials at the Alushta Aquarium remain confident. Aquarium director Victor Zhilenko announced to reporters: “The octopus’s name is Pavlik and the staff of the aquarium will teach him to see into the future.” But how exactly do you teach an octopus to be psychic?

Those aware of Paul’s famed powers of divination (and who isn’t?) will remember how the octopus housed in the German town of Oberhausen guessed the right winners of World Cup fixtures by eating mollusks out of a box marked with a particular national team flag. Often, he also got the scores of the game right depending on how many tasty treats he could wrest free from each of the boxes. Check him out below.

In 2012, Ukraine is jointly hosting the European equivalent of the World Cup with Poland, and clearly the aquarium’s authorities want to cash in on their own special brand of prescient ocean fauna. But like the soccer players competing, young Pavlik will have to get into shape. His regimen so far has involved having to sit through soccer matches beamed on a television placed in front of his tank. In a trial run, Pavlik apparently picked the winner of yesterday’s Champions League quarterfinal between FC Barcelona and Ukraine’s own Shakhtar Donetsk. But, as Barcelona coasted to a 5-1 victory, it could be argued that any old bottom-feeding sea anemone could have called that.

Tougher challenges await, but Zhilenko seems bullish about Pavlik’s skills. “Pavlik weights only 300 grams, but he can raise aquarium decorations, weighing 10 kilograms with the help of his tentacles… Hopefully he likes football.”

(More on TIME.com: See Paul in the top 10 animal stories of 2010)

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