Inky the octopus from New Zealand and his dash to freedom has stolen the hearts of people worldwide and gone viral. The octopus made a great escape from a small aquarium he was being kept in, down a drain and into the ocean earlier this year.
The story of the octopus who just wanted to be free has been reported on by the New York Times, the Daily Mail, and the Telegraph, featured on CNN and BBC News, and his plight to freedom has been translated into several languages.
Napier City Council Communications Manager Robyn McLean said the council had five staff working full time to respond to all the media requests following the octopus’ great escape, according to NZ Herald.
“It’s pretty full-on. It’s safe to say Inky has gone completely viral. Maybe he heard about one of the stars of Pixar’s upcoming film, Finding Dory, is an octopus called Hank, who is apparently an excellent escape artist too,” McLean said.
Well respected, but controversial, animal rights group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has taken the opportunity to point out that the octopus’ great escape shows Inky, and all marine animals, do not belong in tanks.
PETA Australia released a statement saying life in a tank is no life at all for sensitive, intelligent creatures like octopuses. PETA Australia Campaign Coordinator Claire Fryer said that octopuses like Inky can think, have memories, can use tools, and learn new skills. Fryer claims that octopuses get bored and this is what would have led to Inky’s great escape.
“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.
“We hope this bold escape sends a message to the aquarium to keep its tentacles off octopuses for good.”
Inky had been in the Aquarium since 2014 when he was unceremoniously pulled from the ocean and placed in a glass box for entertainment value. For two years, he had been in the same small aquarium and as soon as he saw an opportunity to escape, he took it.
Inky broke out of the tank when someone at the National Aquarium of New Zealand in Napier left the top slightly ajar. The octopus slithered across the floor, squeezed down a 50-meter drainpipe, and disappeared into the sea, hopefully forever.
The aquarium manager, Rob Yarrall, says the tank’s lid was left slightly ajar following maintenance work. “He managed to make his way to one of the drain holes that go back to the ocean and off he went – didn’t even leave us a message,” he said. Staff later found slippery “octopus tracks” which revealed Inky’s escape route.
“They are always exploring and they are great escape artists,” Yarrell said adding to the debate that octopuses should not be kept in small spaces.
PETA hopes that the octopus’ great escape and the popularity of the news story will make people think twice about confining marine life of any size. The group has already made waves in building public resistance to the capture and confinement of bigger marine life, such as the orcas at Sea World.
People tend to stand up for whales and will protest against the whaling in Japan or the capture and confinement of killer whales for entertainment, but little fish are often forgotten.
In 2013 a documentary on the dangers of killer whales in confinement was captured in the film Blackfish. Blackfish tells the story of Tilikum, a performing killer whale that killed several people while in captivity, and the movie highlights exactly why sea life belongs in the sea.
While big, bold animals that are easily lovable such as dolphins and whales receive a lot of attention and media coverage, often the less sexy sea life, such as octopuses, are forgotten or eaten.
Inky, his now famous escape, and the response that followed brings up the question, “Why love one but eat the other?“
[Photo by Ullstein Bild/Getty Images]