Tokyo‘s Sumida Aquarium has noticed a rather bizarre side effect of the coronavirus pandemi. It’s making the in-house spotted garden eels scared of humans. To compensate, the aquarium is attempting to bring humans in via technology in order to reassure the little sea noodles. Starting from May 3, you’ll be able to video call the eels.
According to the aquarium the eels were used to constant human attention from seeing them often outside their tanks. Now that the coronavirus lockdown is preventing most humans from doing the ordinarily things like going to aquariums, the eels aren’t seeing people very often. According to their keepers, they’re forgetting humans and are now hiding from them when the keepers approach them who are their only source of contact at the moment. This also means that keepers can’t easily tell whether the eels are healthy or are in distress.
In order to help them remember what people look like, Sumida Aquarium is requesting citizens to call the aquarium via FaceTime, and use the app to stare at the eels. Tank keepers will mount tablets to the side of the tank. The viewers are encouraged to wave at and speak softly to them. This is also an event for Golden Week that is a Japanese holiday period. Since most people won’t be able to get out much for the holiday, you can say talking to eels is the next best thing.
It’s a pretty great idea, though it makes you wonder if eels will necessarily see a screen the same way they see actual people. It could be that their eyes will process the image of a human face on a screen differently than they would a human face directly. Goodness knows screen-based programs have replaced a lot of our own interactions with other humans. Who would have thought that we could be able to relate this much to an eel.
If you feel like talk to the eels, the program will be available from May 3. Through 5 during a specific time period. You can find the full details about it here (in Japanese).