Japanese Aquarium Asks Public To Video Call Eels During Lockdown

Garden eels at Lisbon Oceanarium in Esplanada Dom Carlos, Portugal.
Maksim Shutov / Unsplash

Sumida Aquarium, which is currently closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak, has taken to social media to people to video call their garden eels as a reminder to the animals that humans do not pose a threat. The aquarium — housed in the Tokyo Skytree, Japan’s tallest structure — has been closed to the public since the beginning of March, The Telegraph reports. As a result, many of the animals are growing more accustomed to a quieter, human-free environment.

“They don’t see humans, except keepers, and they have started forgetting about humans,” the aquarium explained on it’s Twitter account.

The population of garden eels — named for their grass-like appearance — have been the most noticeably affected. In the wild, these creatures tend to be incredibly sensitive and wary and will often hide in the sand when they feel threatened. Prior to the pandemic, the 300 individuals living in a tank at the Sumida Aquarium had grown accustomed to their human visitors and very rarely hid. However, under current lockdown measures, the eels have begun to hide in the sand each time their keepers pass, making it difficult to check on the health and well-being of the animals.

Tourists look at a whale shark through the world's largest acrylic panoramic window at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium in Okinawa, Japan.
  Koichi Kamoshida / Getty Images

With that in mind, the aquarium has announced a “face-showing festival” in an attempt to reacquaint the shy eels with their guests.

“Could you show your face to our garden eels from your home?” they requested.

The aquarium intends to set up five tablets facing the garden eel tank, allowing visitors to connect remotely through FaceTime. People are encouraged to show their faces and wave to the animals, and to speak gently to them to help the eels get used to seeing humans again.

The “face-showing festival” will run from May 3 to May 5, during Japan’s Golden Week holiday. This would usually be a time for traveling, reports The Guardian.

The announcement for the aquarium’s face-showing festival attracted a lot of support on Twitter, with replies incorporating the Japanese hashtag #PleaseRememberHumans.

“They need training to learn humans are not a threat. Interesting,” one user commented.

“When you gaze at the garden eels, the garden eels gaze at you. Understood. I’m happy to take part,” said another.

It is hoped that the event will improve the overall well-being of the garden eels.

At this time, the Sumida Aquarium’s call to action is only open to iPhone and iPad users, to the lament of at least one interested party.

“I never regretted my Android phone this much before,” that person wrote in response to the announcement.