It happened at night. The only traces were octopus tracks leading from an empty tank to a tiny drain pipe. Searches were conducted around the aquarium and even into the pipes. Eventually staff at the National Aquarium of New Zealand in Napier had to concede: Inky the octopus had escaped.

It seems that the common New Zealand octopus had climbed up and slipped out of a small space at the top of his tank. Then the soccer-ball sized Inky traveled along the floor to the six inch drain pipe and slipped through. Since most of their bodies are made of soft material, octopuses are able to fit through the tiniest of spaces. Whether or not Inky knew where the drain pipe led is a mystery that will never be known, but we do know he made it all the way through, to the sea. Originally brought in by a fisherman who pulled up Inky in a trap for crayfish only a few miles from the aquarium, it’s nice to think Inky made it back home.

Inky’s is an entertaining story that made headlines across the world, but begs the question: should these creatures be kept in captivity?

Other amazing octopus escapades

Octopuses are strong, versatile, and extremely intelligent. They have adapted to hunt in coral reefs which requires hiding, sneaking up on prey, and dispensing an inky substance to confuse predators. Their craftiness allows them to thrive in nature and exhibit impressive behaviors in captivity like opening jars, shorting out lights, and escaping. Their intelligence also means they get bored and suffer ill effects from sitting in the same tank day after day. There are countless stories, told and untold, about these amazing creatures, but here are a few that made headlines.

  • Sid the octopus escaped from his tank and hid so many times (once for five days!) staff at a New Zealand aquarium finally decided to set him free.
  • A California two-spotted octopus released around 200 gallons of water from her tank into exhibits and offices in the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium by opening a valve.
  • An aquarium in Germany discovered that Otto the octopus was the cause for the short-circuited lights night after night. Otto was squirting water onto the bothersome light above his tank. He also throws rocks at the glass tank walls and has a habit of moving everything around. Even the staff admit he is bored.

Generally, aquariums and private owners are unable to provide the high level of care needed for an octopus. Ample space and hiding places, live food that mimics what would be found in nature, intellectual stimulation, flowing salt water. Even experienced keepers and well funded aquariums have difficulties.

Though no one can know for sure, we like to think that Inky is living out a long life of freedom in Hawke’s Bay on the east coast of the North Island.

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