The Squid being adored by children
The Squid being adored by children

ParentsMarch 29, 2018

What is happening to the beloved Te Papa Colossal Squid?

The Squid being adored by children
The Squid being adored by children

There are changes afoot at Te Papa. And the question on every parent’s lips is: What will happen to the Giant Squid every child is obsessed with? Spinoff Parents editor Emily Writes went on a squid hunt.

I have been to Te Papa with my two kids around eight hundred trillion times and we have seen the squid about sixty one thousand hundred billion trillion times. Both of my boys adore the squid. Often I think they’d prefer the squid to be their parent. They have often queried why we can’t take the squid home as they press their noses against the germ-infested snotty glass that entombs the heinous sea creature.

I do like Giant Squid. It has given me many hours of… I wouldn’t say quiet time (because my children don’t seem to know what quiet time is) but at least quiet time-ish. Like I have been able to look at Dwayne The Rock Johnson’s perfect Instagram for three seconds while they tap on the glass and scream WAKE UP SQUID while wide-eyed cruise ship tourists stare at them. And it is a special squid – the only colossal squid specimen on display in the world, right here in Welly.

Every weekend, the kids wake up and ask to see the squid. Some days we just pop in for a quick hello. Other days they will spend a good hour just staring at it or watching the capture video over and over and over again. I mean, it’s an old squid, having been “collected” in 2007. I like to imagine it was just, like, over it and was quite pleased to be scooped up by a fishing trawler. An emo squid listening to Linkin Park (remember, it was 2007), it was like “I am tired of living in the black depths, give me light – let me die.” This is what I was like as a teenager so I figure she was the same.

In “researching” this story (I looked at the Te Papa website) I was astonished to find Te Papa is hoarding three of these suckers. It is a mystery to me why they aren’t all on display because my kids would LIVE AT TE PAPA if that were the case. Oh, maybe that’s why.

So you can imagine my terror when a Te Papa press release landed in my inbox with the foreboding subject line “End of an era – Te Papa’s nature exhibitions make way for the new”.

As part of Te Papa’s renewal of its permanent exhibitions, the natural history spaces on Level 2 will close after Easter for redevelopment. Yes, close. The best bit of the museum will close (don’t tell me the horrible giant corpses is the best bit. It isn’t. And yes, I know I will be kicked out of Wellington for speaking against our lord and saviour Peter Jackson* but it’s true OK).

Mountains to Sea, the home of Giant Squid and Awesome Forces, the home of the Edgecumbe Earthquake House will close on Monday 2 April at 6pm. I was told, through the press release, that “an exciting new nature zone will open in 2019”.


My child can’t even wait for tomorrow let alone 2019. I had to know more. Especially since I got a text from another mum who also got the press release and all the text said was:

“They better not get rid of that fucking squid”. 

Squid bits

I talked to Kate Camp, communications manager at Te Papa, to get some reassurance about the squid I have affectionately named The Squid.

Will The Squid still be on display to exhausted parents whose children insist on seeing The Squid every weekend even though it just lies there and does nothing? If the squid will not be available will there be some kind of cage option to put our kids into?

Our uniquely charismatic squid will be on display while the new area is being built, for the benefit of its extensive cult following. And it will be in the new nature zone.

Do you like The Squid? 

This may be sacrilege but I am not a huge personal fan of the squid myself, I actually find it a bit disturbing with its beak mouth. But I love the way people – and especially kids – are so obsessed with it. I have bought more than one cuddly toy squid for friends’ kids and they always love them.

Will The Squid get a makeover? How do you make over a squid? 

The squid is actually in pretty good shape and doesn’t need to have too much “work done”. I would say it has good bones except, you know, it doesn’t have any bones. But when we move it we will take the opportunity to drain the fluid out of the tank and replace that, and to make sure that the squid is sitting comfortably on its supports.

Why are children so obsessed with The Squid? I think my child likes The Squid more than me. 

I am not a trained psychologist or even an untrained one, but I am going to say that children are obsessed with the squid because it represents the powerful, mysterious forces of nature, and because it’s kind of gross, and because it’s at Te Papa and kids love Te Papa. I suspect that squid envy is quite common among parents – a squid never tells you to tidy your room, or that screen time is over.

My child only just started being able to go into the earthquake house without screaming. Will it be back? 

The earthquake house will be coming back. The current film in there features the Edgecumbe earthquake way back in ye olden days of 1987, so it does need updating.

Also are you keeping the pig? What do you do with the animals you get rid of? Will you put them on TradeMe? 

The future of the pig is on a need to know basis and cannot currently be revealed, or to put it another way, I’m not currently 100% sure what is happening with the pig. However I can tell you that the taxidermied animals in there will either be used in the new display, or return to the national collections. We won’t be auctioning off any of our stuffed animals.


The Squid

If you want to bid a temporary farewell to The Squid, Te Papa is putting on a Family Farewell day on Easter Monday from 11am till 5pm.

*Turns out it’s not Peter Jackson it’s the other Peter Jackson AKA Richard Taylor.

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