Aww, You Guys Made Me Ink

Why This Matters | Jen Semler | April 19, 2016

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The Case of the Disappearing Octopus

It was an ordinary night at the National Aquarium of New Zealand. The staff had left and it was quiet. So it came as a bit of a surprise when they arrived the next morning to find Inky, a courageous octopus with an adorable name, gone. How did this happen?

It turns out that a maintenance worker had accidentally left the top of Inky’s tank slightly ajar. The octopus saw this opportunity and slipped through the small opening, slid down the side of the tank, crawled (or whatever the correct word is for how octopuses move on land) across the floor, and squeezed down a drainpipe that leads to the ocean.

Let’s just take a minute to fully understand how incredible this is. This getaway took a certain degree of planning. Inky waited until everyone left to escape. Not knowing what would lie ahead, he took the risk of leaving his tank. He then proceeded to slither to the other side of the room. He was out of water, and turning back would be nearly impossible. He managed to find the small drainpipe and squeeze himself down it for 50 meters before, luckily, reaching the ocean. Octopuses are able to squeeze through the smallest of openings because they have no bones. The only thing that needs to be able to fit through the hole is the octopus’ beak, and everything else can be squished in. Inky left nothing behind aside from a trail and his clearly less courageous tank mate Blotchy, who still remains at the aquarium.

Unfortunately, this escape was not captured on video. But when I envision it in my head, I like to think of it as some combination of Finding Nemo and The Shawshank Redemption. What’s true in both of these movies, as well as in the case of Inky, is that we are rooting for the escape. We are amazed with how the heroes managed to fight their way to success. But if it’s clear that Inky and other octopuses are such intelligent creatures, why are we locking them up in the first place?

Subtitle: The Hero We Need

Inky’s escape serves not only as an amusing story, but also as a symbol for animal rights. In response to the escape, PETA Australia Campaign Coordinator Claire Fryer announced, “We hope this bold escape sends a message to the aquarium to keep its tentacles off octopuses for good.” Essentially, the argument is that octopuses are intelligent creatures—it has been proven that they have memories, can use tools, can learn, and can even experience boredom. An animal like this should therefore be able to live in its natural habitat instead of being held captive in a small tank for a prolonged period of time. Canada’s Animal Justice tweeted a photo of Inky with the captain, “All animals want to live free. Bravo to Inky the Octopus for breaking out of aquarium jail!” It’s easy to fight for the release of bigger marine animals like the whales at SeaWorld, but even the smaller animals like the octopus deserve some attention.

Regardless of Inky’s intentions, he has shown the world just how smart, bold, and loveable octopuses can be. We at The Rival wish him all the best in his ocean endeavors.