In scenes that could have been lifted straight from Finding Nemo, an ingenious octopus has pulled off a daring escape from New Zealand’s National Aquarium. Inky, a rugby ball–sized octopus, managed to bust out of his tank under the cloak of darkness, before legging it across the floor, clambering down a 50-metre drainpipe and disappearing back into the sea at Hawke’s Bay, to taste freedom for the first time since he’d been brought into the aquarium by fishermen several years ago.
The fugitive is a common New Zealand octopus, otherwise known as a Maori octopus. It’s believed the lid of his tank may have been left slightly ajar, but any question of the break-out being assisted by someone on the inside have been ruled out by aquarium staff.
According to the Stuff.co.nz website, the escape happened earlier this year but only became public yesterday. Inky left his tank mate, Blotchy, behind during his bid for freedom, and amazed staff later discovered ‘octopus tracks’ which revealed his escape route.
‘Octopuses are famous escape artists,’ Rob Yarrell, manager of the National Aquarium of New Zealand in Napier, told the Guardian. ‘But Inky really tested the waters here. I don’t think he was unhappy with us, or lonely, as octopus are solitary creatures. But he is such a curious boy. He would want to know what’s happening on the outside. That’s just his personality.’
Octopuses are the Houdinis of the animal world. Their eight, sucker-covered legs enable them to climb almost anything, and since they have no bones, they can squeeze through seemingly impossible spaces—basically, if their beak can fit through a gap, then they can force the rest of their body through. Plus, they can change colour at will to blend into their surroundings, they’re highly intelligent and have even been known to use tools.
And it’s not the first time an octopus has hit the headlines in New Zealand. One individual called Ozymandias, a former inmate at the Island Bay Marine Education Centre in Wellington, broke a world record for opening a jar before being released into the ocean for good behaviour, and another octopus at the centre was caught regularly leaving its own enclosure to steal crabs from another tank overnight.
‘The staff and I have been pretty sad,’ admitted Yarrell, who has declined to launch a search for the ‘unusually intelligent’ escapee. ‘But then, this is Inky, and he’s always been a bit of a surprise octopus.’