Global interest in Inky's great escape

By Roger Moroney

2 comments
Inky the octopus in his tank at the National Aquarium of New Zealand.
Inky the octopus in his tank at the National Aquarium of New Zealand.

The escape of Inky the octopus from the National Aquarium of New Zealand in Napier has drawn plenty of offshore attention - from newspapers in the United Kingdom and the CNN network to reaction from an Australian animals rights group.

Since the news broke this week aquarium manager Rob Yarrall has been taking calls from far and wide, rivalling the publicity which surrounded the rescue penguin 'Happy Feet' back in 2011.

"It's been pretty full-on," Napier City Council communications manager Robyn McLean said.

Five staff have been working full-time responding to media requests for information about the escape, and yesterday carried out a Skype interview live to Good Morning America.

They had also received enquiries from the National Geographic group.

While most reactions had been of intrigue and curiosity, Inky's escape drew a harsher response from Australian-based animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

They reacted with a statement from its campaign co-ordinator Claire Fryer saying Inky's dash to freedom should send a message to the aquarium.

"Life in a tank is no life at all for sensitive, intelligent octopuses," Ms Fryer said.

"Octopuses like Inky are capable of complex thought processes, have long-term memories, use tools, learn through observation and even have the capacity to feel bored."

She said Inky's "bold escape" should send a message that the aquarium should "keep its tentacles off octopuses for good".

Mr Yarrall said Inky had a comfortable and purpose-built enclosure and clearly enjoyed the attention he got.

"He was always out the front."

He said being able to show creatures like octopus was how people got an awareness for nature and conservation, and was an important part of environmental education programmes.

Inky's escape was picked up by dozens of news agencies, including The Guardian in the UK which, like the initial story in Hawke's Bay Today, likened the tentacled creature's escapade to that of the "great escape".

Inky made his dash for freedom after finding a slim gap at the top of his tank - the lid had inadvertently been left only slightly ajar.

He crawled up, over and down to the floor before slithering about four metres across the floor (staff later saw his tracks) and to a small drainpipe.

A drainpipe which is used to empty tanks.

Despite being the size of a football he was able to squish through the 150mm gap as anything an octopus's hard beak can get through the rest of it can.

Inky would then have travelled along piping to a full drain outlet which led to a 50m journey to the sea.

He would have likely sensed the smell of sea water as there was usually a flow of it leading in one direction - out to the ocean.

After a couple of years in his comfortable aquarium home would all have been well when he hit the sea again?

"He would have no problems," Mr Yarrall said, adding he hoped Inky had made it ok.

One woman said on social media she had visited the aquarium and had been told Inky may have died, so contacted them for clarification.

A staff member replied to say as Inky had escaped in such an unorthodox manner there was always the possibility he didn't make it - "obviously we hope otherwise".

Mr Yarrall described Inky as an "unusually intelligent" octopus and said that, coupled with the fact the creatures were known to be excellent escape artists, would have allowed him to achieve his escape - and fame.

The aquarium is not completely octopus free though.

A second smaller one, called Blotchy, which is not yet on the viewing front-line, would be placed into a smart new home in the near future.

There were no plans to step up security, but Mr Yarrall said staff were now very aware of what they could get up to ... and into.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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