The coronavirus has created a situation that’s never been seen before in modern history: a lot of humans are staying inside. Animals all around the world are reacting to this situation, and most are relishing the chance to be in a world with fewer humans.
But for a few eels, things are pretty different.
Spotted garden eels are vigilant and fearful creatures. Anytime they see a human passing by (say, an aquarium worker), they burrow into the sand and hide. Of course, eels in aquariums see so many people that they get used to them and in time, become less fearful.
Or that used to be the case before the coronavirus pandemic.
Employees at the Sumida Aquarium, housed in the Tokyo Skytree tower, noticed that eels were becoming unfamiliar with humans. The aquarium has been closed to visitors since March 1, and since then eels have slowly become more and more fearful of the few humans they see.
That’s not a good thing, for several reasons.
For starters, because they are so fearful and quick to hide, it’s difficult for aquarium workers to check on their health. Then, they are also more reluctant to mate, which was not the case previously.
So the Japanese aquarium has a plan. They call it the “Eel show festival”. Basically, the goal is to reaccustom eels to humans, but since visitors still aren’t allowed to the aquarium, a technological workaround is required. Essentially, the aquarium is inviting people to call the aquarium’s account through an iPhone or iPad and, for five minutes at a time, wave to the eels or tell them, “Please do not forget the presence of a human being.”
It’s a creative event for an unusual problem. Though it’s unclear whether the eels will see the calling people as real people or something else, at the very least, it’s a way to allow people to engage with creatures without actually being there. The event started on May 3 and lasts until May 6. You can find out more about the event on the aquarium’s page (which is in Japanese).
Although Japan hasn’t enforced a strict lockdown, it is recommending that people stay home as much as possible and avoid physical contact.