As everyone is largely confined to their respective homes, it’s easy to focus on how social distancing is affecting our own relationships and forget that animals are similarly impacted by the sudden absence of humans in their lives.
The spotted garden eels at Tokyo’s Sumida Aquarium, for example, are used to seeing crowds of humans when they poke their heads out of the sand. Since the aquarium’s closure at the beginning of March, however, the fish see very few, and aquarium staff are concerned that they are forgetting what humans look like.
On its website, the aquarium explained that the only faces they see regularly are those of the keepers, and they have started to hide in the sand in fear when they pass by. Consequently, the keepers are unable to check properly on the well-being of the eels and care for them as they usually would.
To remedy the situation, the aquarium is asking people to FaceTime the eels to remind them what regular human contact feels like. The aquarium is setting up five tablets facing the eel tank and asking people to participate in video calls with the eels. They’re calling it the “face-showing festival,” and it’s happening May 3-5.
And unlike most FaceTime calls, there’s no pressure to make awkward conversation. All you have to do is wave, show your friendly face to the eels, and keep your voice down so as not to frighten them.