IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Tokyo aquarium asks public to FaceTime shy eels under lockdown

"It seems like the spotted garden eels are getting used to a non-human environment and have forgotten about people."
Image: Spotted garden eel
Spotted garden eel, similar to those held at a Tokyo aquarium, burrow in sand at signs of perceived threats.Reinhard Dirscherl/ullstein bild / Getty Images file

A Japanese aquarium is calling on members of the public to play a virtual game of peek-a-boo with its community of about 300 eels to help prevent the creatures from getting shy under lockdown.

Spotted garden eels at the in Tokyo are accustomed to streams of people looking into their tanks, but officials said in a statement Friday that appears to be changing since the facility closed its doors due to the coronavirus pandemic on March 1.

This variety of eels are typically very cautious of their surroundings in the wild and bury themselves in the sand of the ocean floor at the sign of any threat. Aquarium officials are concerned the captive eels are reverting back to this behavior.

"It seems like the spotted garden eels are getting used to a non-human environment and have forgotten about people. When the staff pass in front of them, they start hiding in the sand," according to a statement in Japanese.

The eels' instincts pose a challenge to their care at the facility. Staff are finding it harder to conduct daily health checks on the animals because they're increasingly burying themselves in the sand at the sight of aquarists and zoologists.

The aquarium has proposed a "face-showing festival" on May 3 through 5 where the public can video call the facility on their Apple devices to see the eels and the eels can see the callers.

Five screens have been set up around the tank that the public can call into.

People will ideally be able to see the eels popping up from the sand, swimming, and twice a day, being fed — barring they don't get skittish and burrow.

"We hope that our spotted garden eels will start remembering human beings," the aquarium said. "We also do hope that we can offer something good and useful for your stay-home' period."