Octopus escapes aquarium through a drainpipe, returns to ocean

Inky the octopus pulled off a Houdini-like escape from an aquarium in New Zealand.

Inky the octopus pulled off a Houdini-like escape from an aquarium in New Zealand. Photo: Courtesy of the National Aquarium of New Zealand

Inky, a popular octopus that had been on display at the National Aquarium of New Zealand, is back home in the Pacific Ocean after making a daring escape reminiscent of a scene from the Pixar box-office hit Finding Nemo, when Nemo makes a similar getaway.

And we thought these things could happen only in cartoons.

Inky made its escape three months ago, but the story is just now being told by Radio New Zealand, Stuff.co.nz, the BBC and other media outlets.

One day, aquarium staff discovered Inky missing from its tank, the lid of which had been left slightly ajar. The staff followed octopus tracks that led from the tank to a 6-inch-wide drainage pipe that is used to return water back to the ocean.

In this case, it returned Inky back to the ocean. Staff checked the pipework and there was no sign of the Houdini-like octopus.

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

Yarrall told Stuff.co.nz that Inky was about the size of a rugby ball, but, like all octopuses, it had the ability to stretch itself to the extreme, allowing it to squeeze through almost any space.

“They can fit through very, very small spaces,” Yarrall told Radio New Zealand. “Even quite a large octopus, they can squeeze down to the size of their mouth, which is the only really hard part of their body.

“It’s a beak, very much like a parrot beak.”

Inky left behind a companion in the tank. Apparently that octopus wasn’t ready to make a break for it.

Yarrall told Hawkes Bay Today that the escape was a first for him, saying, “It’s most unusual and yes, we’ll be watching the other one.”

“They are always exploring and they are great escape artists,” Yarrall added.

Inky, a male octopus, was given to the aquarium in 2014 after fishermen and an aquarium volunteer pulled it out of a crayfish pot near Pania Reef, about a third of a mile from Napier, where the aquarium is located.

There are no plans to replace Inky, but should another octopus become available, the aquarium would accept it, and perhaps keep a better eye on it.

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