Aquarium's Problem: Its Eels Are Forgetting People Exist

An 'unprecedented situation' in Tokyo
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 1, 2020 7:03 AM CDT
Aquarium's Problem: Its Eels Are Forgetting People Exist
Stock photo of a garden eel.   (Getty Images/wrangel)

A Japanese aquarium has an "urgent request" for locals who can't stop by for a visit due to the coronavirus shutdown: It wants them to partake in a "face-showing festival" instead and call in for a video chat with its spotted garden eels, for whom the presence of humans is starting to fade from memory. "Could you show your face to our garden eels from your home?" Tokyo's Sumida Aquarium posted online this week. "They don't see humans, except keepers, and they have started forgetting" that people exist. The Guardian explains that this species of eel is a naturally wary one, but the hundreds that take up residence at the aquarium have become so used to people that they don't often duck into the sand when people approach their tank.

Not so much anymore since the beginning of March, when they started hunkering down in the shuttered building during the pandemic. Their sudden shyness has left aquarium staff concerned they won't be able to keep tabs on the eels' health. And so from Sunday through Tuesday, during select hours, five tablets will be set up in front of the tank within the eels' view so people who are interested can call in on their iPhones or iPads via FaceTime for a wave and a chat (just no loud noises or raised voices, please). Per Time Out, viewers will be asked to keep their calls to no more than five minutes so that everyone has a chance with the eels. Quartz notes the eel event will occupy people's time during Golden Week, a holiday that began this week in which people normally do a lot of socializing and traveling. (Read more eel stories.)

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