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Octopus Pulls Off Dramatic Aquarium Escape

“He managed to make his way to one of the drain holes that go back to the ocean. And off he went.”

Image credit: National Aquarium of New Zealand

Officials at the New Zealand National Aquarium say that Inky, a wild octopus who had become a regional attraction, managed to break free from its tank and pull off a daring return to the ocean.


Truth be told, people at the aquarium aren’t entirely sure about Inky’s fate but there are some telling clues. Three months ago, they found its tank empty. Left behind were suction cup prints as evidence that the crafty creature had escaped through a gap in the tank accidentally left open by maintenance workers. From there, the cephalopod reportedly made its way across the aquarium floor before climbing down a six-inch-drain pipe that had direct access to the ocean.

“He managed to make his way to one of the drain holes that go back to the ocean. And off he went,” aquarium manager Rob Yarrall told Radio New Zealand. “And he didn’t even leave us a message.”

Inky was technically a rescue project by the aquarium. In 2014, they found him caught in a crayfish pot, suffering from injuries. But even as they rehabilitated him it became increasingly clear that keeping an octopus in captivity is a complicated endeavor. In an interview at the time, curator of exhibits Kerry Hewitt said, “He’s got a few battle scars and a couple of shortened limbs which will eventually grow back, but he’s getting used to being at the aquarium now. We have to keep Inky amused or he will get bored.”

Several must read pieces have been written in the last several years about the powerful and often confounding intelligence of the octopus. In 2009, Scientific American reported on another crafty octopus that flooded the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium with 200 gallons of water by dismantling a water recycling hose that subsequently poured out fluid for 10 hours. There are more than 300 species of octopuses, and scientists have found they are capable of navigating mazes, solving puzzles and dismantling complex pieces of machinery – obviously. The Soul of an Octopus author Sy Montgomery tells the Christian Science Monitor, “Octopuses are very curious. They love to explore objects, take things apart, and put them together.”

And apparently, when given the opportunity, to escape from their human captors.