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Due to the coronavirus, the residents of Sumida Aquarium as desperate for human attention. You could say that they’re feeling eely-eely bad.
The ensuing social lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic has seen captive wildlife around the world creep back into the open. However, as “nature is healing” (it is not, unfortunately), many animals aren’t enjoying the lack of human contact. In this case, a desperate Japanese aquarium has called on the help of visitors to video call their shy eels.
The Tokyo Skytree tower, the tallest tower in the world, harbours the Sumida Aquarium, home to hundreds of spotted garden eels. The natural disposition of these eels is to remain highly suspicious, habitually hiding in the sand at the first sign of trouble. At the Sumida Aquarium though, the spotted garden eels have become accustomed to human admirers around their tanks. This phenomenon has, in turn, made the aquarium’s job of caring for them much easier.
This has since changed. The lockdown measures forced the aquarium to close its doors in early March, simultaneously taking away both the customers from the aquarium and the confidence of the eels around humans. The change in personality has made the job of caring for them extraordinarily complex; whenever the aquarium workers approach the eels, they become shy and disappear into the sand, rendering the workers unable to check on the health of them.
The lockdown measures forced the aquarium to close its doors in early March, simultaneously taking away both the customers from the aquarium and the confidence of the eels around humans.
The Sumida Aquarium had become so desperate that they called for otherwise would-be visitors to instead video call the eels to refamiliarise the eels with their admirers. The “Chinanago face show festival”, as the aquarium coined it, was an “emergency event” spanning three days that began on May 3, reminding the eels that humans exist. Visitors called the aquarium via Facetime where they were presented to the eels on five tablets around the tank.
The event is hoped to have been a chance to engage in socialisation for both the eels and the callers, as the “face show festival” coincided with the middle of the Golden Week holiday, a time when the country of Japan usually sees an uptick in tourism. Japan currently has no strict lockdown measures in place, though the authorities have requested that citizens stay home as much as possible to prevent the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.