Many people have turned to video chat as a way to continue socializing while in quarantine, and the Sumida Aquarium in Tokyo, Japan, is asking you to help its eels do the same.
After the aquarium closed its doors to the public on March 1, its population of 300-odd spotted garden eels became increasingly bashful, burrowing into the sand whenever staff members were around. Although that isn’t abnormal behavior for wild garden eels, the ones in captivity at Sumida had adapted to the consistent, non-threatening presence of human visitors, and no longer tried to hide whenever someone approached.
As Quartz reports, this return to reticence is making it hard for employees to monitor their health, so they’ve devised a plan to reacclimate the tiny creatures to the existence of people: a three-day “face-showing festival” from Sunday, May 3, to Tuesday, May 5. During that time, the aquarium is requesting that people FaceTime the eels, waving or calmly calling out to them for up to 5 minutes before disconnecting.
Since they’ll be using FaceTime, you’ll need an iPhone, iPad, or other iOS device to call in. Staff members will be accepting calls on five tablets around the tanks, so there are five different email addresses you can try if you’d like to chat with the eels:
email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
The lines will be open each day from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m JST, and because Tokyo is 13 hours ahead of EST, participants in the U.S. will technically need to call in the night before; i.e. from Saturday, May 2, to Monday, May 4, between the hours of 9:30 p.m. and 1 a.m EST.
In other words, it's the perfect time to read a very short bedtime story to a very small eel.