With much of the world is under lockdown and human population stuck at home, one Japanese aquarium in Tokyo is looking for ways to make sure their animals do not get too used to the peace and quiet.

Sumida Aquarium, in Tokyo Skytree tower, appealed this week for volunteers to FaceTime its 300 spotted garden eels. Ever since the aquarium was forced to close last March, the eels have had limited interactions with humans.

No more desensitize with humans' presence

They have noticed that the eels are starting to act oddly, like burrowing into the sand when aquarium workers pass by the tank. The aquarium said that it is because the animals are not seeing any other people other than the staff, and beginning to become unfamiliar with humans.

"The garden eels, in particular, have started to burrow themselves into the sand and hide even when aquarium (staff) pass by their tank," said the aquarium authorities.

They added that this had become a problem as the eels' newfound shyness means staffs are unable to check up on the fish and make sure they are healthy. Most especially since garden eels are by nature highly vigilant and sensitive and submerge themselves in the sand when triggered.

The aquarium said that before the lockdown happened, the eels have learned to accept the presence of humans because there are so many who visit the aquarium. Now, as the eels get used to a human-less environment, it poses problems to their health as they are not checked by the staff.

Spotted garden eels are often mistaken for plants because of their slim size and because they burrow partially into the seafloor to sweep up passing zooplankton, according to the California Academy of Sciences.

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3-day "Face Show Festival"

In order to keep the garden eels socially engaged, the Sumida Aquarium is organizing a three-day "emergency event" starting from May 3 to May 5, known as the "Face Show Festival." During the festival, the aquarium will install five tablets near the tank.

They are inviting people to call the aquarium's dedicated account using an iPhone or iPad. Once they are already connected, people are asked to wave and call out the eels but not too loudly as this could upset them, for five minutes at a time, during two-time slots a day.

They hope that through video-calling the eels, they will be re-familiarize with people. Sumida Aquarium also said that the "emergency event" is something for people to do during the Golden Week holiday, which started yesterday and lasts until May 6.

Traditionally, the Golden Week holiday is a busy time for domestic and international travel. Japanese authorities are reminding people to stay home as much as possible this year to contain the spread of COVID-19, although strict lockdown measures are not yet imposed.

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