Burnt Out on Work Zooms? Call Some Eels (Pants Still Optional)

Images from The Asahi Shimbun and Science Alert.

Japanese Aquarium Urges Public to Video-chat Eels Who are Forgetting Humans Exist

If you’re like me, you’re probably spending more time right now than ever before in your life video-chatting loved ones, coworkers, and arch nemeses (if you’re REALLY like me, you also hate it). I’m guessing, though, that you didn’t FaceTime the garden eels at Sumida Aquarium and honestly, we missed out.

The aquarium located in Tokyo is home to some decently famous (they’ve featured in at least one wedding, besides delighting everyday visitors) garden eels, so named because they all bury their butts in the sand and stick their heads into the current to catch passing food – all the while looking like a bunch of blades of grass. Normally the eels are quite gregarious and don’t shy away from visitors, but after a few months of COVID isolation they’ve become fearful of humans again.

To keep their eels friendly and engaging for when visitors are able to return, Sumida Aquarium is employing the same technology we’re all using to get wasted with our friends and group-binge terrible reality TV stay friendly and engaged during our time locked down at home – video conferencing. With iPads positioned in front of the tank, folks at home were encouraged to call in and let the eels put their eyeballs on some smiling faces. While this story was all over the Internet pre-calls, it was tough to find some follow up or word on whether the aquarium might try this again. Hopefully it worked and these guys can go back to starring in the TikToks of aspiring influencers when it’s once again safe to be in public (counterpoint: is it ever safe to be in public with an aspiring influencer?). Come to think of it, I can understand the eels’ instinct to hide when someone walks by. It’s scary out there. Stay safe, my friends.

Johnny Venger will video chat anyone at anytime and anywhere – just try me, bro.

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