02 May 2020
A Japanese aquarium that has closed because of the coronavirus outbreak is asking people to make video calls to the aquarium's eels.
The reason? Aquarium workers fear the sensitive creatures may not remember humans exist and do not present a threat.
The Sumida Aquarium has been closed since the start of March. Its sea animals have become used to a largely human-free environment during the two-month period of calm.
But the aquarium said the situation was having some unexpected effects.
"Creatures in the aquarium don't see humans except keepers and they have started forgetting about humans," it said on its Twitter account this week.
"Garden eels in particular disappear into the sand and hide every time the keepers pass by," it noted. That is causing difficulties for keepers trying to check on the health of the animals.
So the aquarium decided to offer an invitation to the public. "Could you show your face to our garden eels from your home?"
It is describing the new effort as a "face-showing festival."
Garden eels are very sensitive by nature. But the 300 garden eels that live in a tank at the aquarium had become used to humans. They rarely hid in the sand from visitors.
To try to reintroduce the eels to humans, the aquarium is putting five computer tablets in front of their tank. The public can connect through the FaceTime app.
Once the video calls start, people are supposed to show their faces, wave their hands and talk to the eels. But given the quiet nature of the animals, callers are asked not to shout.
The "face-showing festival" is set to take place Sunday through Tuesday, during Japan's Golden Week holiday, when many people usually travel. This Golden Week, however, people have been asked to stay at home while the country remains under a state of emergency.
The face-showing festival has gotten plenty of support, under the Japanese hashtag #PleaseRememberHumans.
"They need training to learn humans are not a threat!" one Twitter user wrote. "Interesting."
Another wrote, "When you gaze at the garden eels, the garden eels gaze at you. Understood. I'm happy to take part."
I'm Caty Weaver.
The AFP reported this story. Ashley Thompson adapted it for VOA Learning English. Bryan Lynn was the editor.
Words in This Story
aquarium - n. a building people can visit to see water animals and plants
sensitive - adj. easily affected by something in a way that is not pleasant or good
tablet - n. a flat, rectangular computing device that is used for connecting to the Internet, watching videos, reading books, etc.
gaze - v. to look at someone or something in a steady way and usually for a long time