Aquarium Wants People To FaceTime Its Shy Eels So They Remember Humans Are OK

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It seems that humans aren’t the only ones who feel a bit anxious in social isolation. Since Tokyo’s Sumida Aquarium had to close to the public on March 1 due to the coronavirus pandemic, its 300 spotted garden eels have become pretty timid around humans.

Apparently these bespeckled and sensitive creatures are getting “used to a non-human environment and have forgotten about people,” the aquarium said this week in a statement translated by NBC.

The eels have been exhibiting some odd behaviors since their steady stream of human admirers abruptly dried up. They’ve begun to “burrow themselves into the sand and hide even when aquarium [staff] pass by their tank,” according to the statement per CNN.

The aquarium explained that this newfound bashfulness is a problem because it means staff can’t observe the little guys to make sure they’re healthy.

So, in hopes of their hedgehogs-of-the-sea becoming a bit more socially engaged again, the aquarium is launching a “face-showing festival” in which the public can FaceTime the eels on five iPads surrounding their tank.

During the three-day event, which starts Sunday and ends Tuesday, participants are encouraged to wave or call out to the eels — but not too loudly as it might frighten the fragile fish, per Quartz.

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