By: Tex Dworkin April 15, 2016
Have you heard about Inky the Octopus’ great escape? Inky, a male common New Zealand octopus, slipped out of his aquarium tank at the National Aquarium of New Zealand, and made his way home—the Pacific Ocean.
It happened over three months ago, but news of his escape just went public recently.
The Washington Post described the scene:
Inky the octopus didn’t even try to cover his tracks. By the time the staff at New Zealand’s National Aquarium noticed that he was missing, telltale suction cup prints were the main clue to an easily solved mystery. Inky had said see ya to his tank-mate, slipped through a gap left by maintenance workers at the top of his enclosure and, as evidenced by the tracks, made his way across the floor to a six-inch-wide drain. He squeezed his football-sized body in and made a break for the Pacific.
The aquarium posted photos of Inky’s escape route, tiny drain hole and all, which you can see here. (The size of the drain hole is astounding!)
Inky is now presumably swimming free in the ocean where he belongs, once again.
Yes, Inky came from the wild. So the story goes, he was given to the aquarium in 2014 after a fisherman and an aquarium volunteer rescued him from an ocean cray pot near Pania Reef, near the port of Napier.
According to New Zealand website Stuff, he had it pretty good there: “During his time at the aquarium he was entertained with games and toys and he was hand fed fish three times a week.”
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But home is where the heart is, and it seems captivity just didn’t suit Inky, so he bailed.
Inky commenced his escape by slipping through a tiny gap in the top of his enclosure, before travelling across the damp floor and over to a small pipe to freedom.
In terms of how Inky fit his rugby-ball-sized body through the pipe, it’s common knowledge that octopi can fit through almost anything, as long as there’s room for its beak.
If you’d like to see a great octopus escape in action, check out this video!
The Washington Post points out that this isn’t the first time a captive octopus vacated its own enclosure: “In 2009, a two-spotted octopus at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium in California took apart a water recycling valve, directed a tube to shoot water out of the tank for 10 hours and caused a massive flood.”
Take that, captors.
Octopus are more than just great escape artists–they’re also smarter than the average bear–which helps explain its ability to dissemble a water valve.
Oh, and they’re mighty. Octopus expert Jennifer Mather says, “They are very strong, and it is practically impossible to keep an octopus in a tank unless you are very lucky.”
As for Inky, Rob Yarrall from New Zealand’s national aquarium says Inky was beloved by aquarium staff and visitors, and although he is missed, they were pleased to see him return to the ocean.
There was one other octopus in Inky’s aquarium who now has the place to himself. But according to Yarrall, loneliness shouldn’t be an issue. “The other octopus was unlikely to miss him as octopuses were solitary creatures that preferred to live alone,” he told Stuff.
Too bad his tank mate didn’t go with. Sounds like the window of opportunity may be closed for good. According to Hawke’s Bay Today, Yarrall said “They are always exploring and they are great escape artists…We’ll be watching the other one.” Apparently they plan to be “looking closely at the minuscule gap Inky slid over and out of.”
He also said that the aquarium was not actively looking for a new octopus to replace Inky, “but if one was to come along they would be happy to accept it.”
Last year we shared a similar story after a video surfaced showing Ink the octopus (no relation) exploring the top of his enclosure before an aquarium employee gently nudged him back in.
Being that octopuses are exploratory by nature, some deemed it possible that Ink was just being curious and not looking for a way out. But now that Inky has gone ahead and actually vanished, perhaps it’s time to re-think that theory.
When Inky first came to the aquarium, he had ”a few battle scars, which included shortened limbs.” It’s great that this aquarium rehabilitated Inky, but they forgot the part about releasing him back to the wild once he was healed, so Inky took things into his own hands, er, tentacles. Actually, they’re referred to as arms.