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TRAVEL & LEISURE

This Japanese Aquarium Wants You to Video Chat with Its Shy and Lonely Eels

Wave at and talk to more than 300 garden eels — so they don't forget what it's like to be surrounded by humans.
By Sarah Ward
May 03, 2020
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This Japanese Aquarium Wants You to Video Chat with Its Shy and Lonely Eels

Wave at and talk to more than 300 garden eels — so they don't forget what it's like to be surrounded by humans.
By Sarah Ward
May 03, 2020
  shares

Humans aren't the only creatures feeling isolated in the time of COVID-19. At the Sumida Aquarium in Tokyo, spotted garden eels are too. And, like anyone trying to stave off loneliness, they're turning to video chats to stay connected to the world — with help from the venue's staff and, if you're keen, from you as well.

From Sunday, May 3–Tuesday, May 5, the currently temporarily closed Japanese tourist attraction is encouraging lovers of marine life to make a video call to the site. Once connected, you'll be able to wave and talk to the tank of eels — more than 300 of them. It's all part of a 'face-showing festival', timed to coincide with Japan's Golden Week. Usually, it's a period of celebration, vacationing and travel, but with the country battling the coronavirus, the focus of this year's festivities is staying home.

If you're wondering why eels might need to see humans waving at them via video chats — or why the aquarium has arranged the event, to be exact — it's all about health and wellbeing. Normally, the long, slender fish poke their heads out of the sand in their tank, saying hello to human visitors; however with the site out of action due to the coronavirus, and only the venue's staff in attendance, the aquatic creatures are becoming more than a little sensitive, wary and shy.

Sumida Aquarium's garden eels inhabit one long tank, with attendees generally spying many, many thin bodies popping out of the sand. In person, it's quite the sight to behold. At present, though, the eels are burrowing instead — which makes it hard for staff to check on them to make sure they're okay.

お願い人間のこと思い出して!「緊急開催!チンアナゴ顔見せ祭り!」

明日開催!!人がいないことに慣れてしまったチンアナゴ。近づくだけで穴に潜ってしまい、飼育スタッフが「元気かどうか」の確認が難しく困っています。みなさんの顔見せで、人間の存在を思い出すようご協力ください。https://www.sumida-aquarium.com/news/details/2236/#休園中の動物園水族館

Posted by Sumida Aquarium on Saturday, 2 May 2020

The aquarium is also eager to ensure that the eels don't forget what it's like to be surrounded by humans, so they don't continue their reluctant ways once the venue re-opens. Although it has been shut since March 1, the Sumida Aquarium is typically rather busy, which isn't surprising given its location: beneath Tokyo Skytree, the towering 634-metre tower that's the second-tallest structure in the world.

If you're eager to chat, you'll need to do so via iPhone or iPad — i.e. via FaceTime — with five email address set up so callers can connect. The aquarium is taking calls from 11am–3pm AEST (10am–2pm in Japan) across each of the three days, and asks participants to limit their calls to five minutes each.

For further details about Sumida Aquarium's 'face-showing festival', which runs from 11am–3pm AEST (10am–2pm in Japan) between Sunday, May 3–Tuesday, May 5, visit the aquarium's  website.

Top image: Haya_BS via Flickr.

Published on May 03, 2020 by Sarah Ward

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