07/07/2011 02:15 EDT | Updated 09/06/2011 05:12 EDT

Rare Orange Lobster Sent To Nature Centre Instead Of Kitchen


THE CANADIAN PRESS -- MONTREAL - Youppi, the one-in-10-million orange lobster, has found a new home -- far from a scalding pot of boiling water.

The rare crustacean, who looks like he's already been cooked, was delivered to a Quebec supermarket a few weeks ago in a routine shipment of lobsters.

The Trois-Rivieres store has refused multiple offers to sell the three-pound critter, who has since become a celebrity among customers.

The store confirmed Thursday that Youppi will instead move next week to a nature centre in Baie-du-Febvre, about 40 kilometres away.

The impending departure of the fortunate lobster, who gobbles shrimp daily from the hands of fishmongers, has left some of his caretakers with heavy hearts.

"Yes, we've grown attached to him, it's like our baby. We go see him every morning, we feed him," said France Dauphin, assistant manager of the store's fish department.

"(But) I'm happy he will continue to live and won't end up on a plate."

An expert for the federal Fisheries Department estimates that orange lobsters are about three times more uncommon than rare blue lobsters, which are about one in three or four million.

Scientists blame the pigment in some lobsters on a genetic defect, while others might have a different colour because something's missing from their diet.

Dauphin said the grocery store was blown away by all the media attention surrounding Youppi, who was named after the orange, longtime mascot of the Montreal Expos and Montreal Canadiens.

The wave of publicity prompted donors to come forward with money to build the lobster a new refrigerated saltwater tank at the nature centre.

The director of the Centre d'interpretation de Baie-du-Febvre said she's still awaiting official confirmation from the governing board before Youppi is adopted, but she's confident he will soon be swimming in one of their exhibits.

"It's pretty rare -- one in 10 million -- so it will be interesting to explain this to people," said Guylaine Frechette, whose centre already houses Quebec wildlife like turtles, frogs and ducks.

"It's quite fascinating."

Until next week, the clementine-coloured Youppi will continue to strut around a grocery-store tank packed with close to 50 darker-shelled companions.

Dauphin recalled how Youppi had a tough time adjusting to the crowded aquarium when he first showed up three weeks ago.

"At the start, we noticed that he was more aggressive," she said.

"He charged at the others, but now he's very calm, he eats once or twice a day."

Dauphin predicts he will now make a splash educating the public in his new home -- once he settles in -- and she says the supermarket staff will be sure to visit.

"For sure, we're going to see how he's doing -- if he recognizes us," she said with a laugh.