• neil

Day 45 (1 May): Mayday, Mayday, Mayday.

Much of our news grazing returns the predictable, but occasionally we learn something a little surprising. Today’s Guardian informs us that a Japanese aquarium is urging the public to video-chat with eels who are forgetting that humans exist. Concerned that the eels could come to see visitors as a threat, the aquarium is asking people to get in touch with them using video calls.

“They don’t see humans, except keepers, and they have started forgetting about humans,” it said on its Twitter account this week.

“Garden eels in particular disappear into the sand and hide every time the keepers pass by,” it said, adding that their oversensitive nature was making it difficult to monitor their health.

I imagine this refers to the eels and not the keepers.

“Here is an urgent request,” the aquarium wrote. “Could you show your face to our garden eels from your home?” it said, naming the event a “face-showing festival”.

If we only retain one fact from this story let it be this: garden eels do not appreciate sexting.

To help the eels reconnect with humans, the aquarium is setting up five tablets facing their tank, with users asked to connect through iPhones or iPads via the FaceTime app.

Once connected, people are asked to show their faces, wave and talk to the eels. But, given the animals’ natural bashfulness, they are requested not to raise their voices or to mention the war. I added that last bit.

This operation is going by the the Japanese hashtag #PleaseRememberHumans.

But as very few eels seem to be on Twitter I would have thought #PleaseRememberEels would have more chance of success.

“They need training to learn humans are not a threat!” is one tweet. Hmmmm. Not so sure about that. A traditional dish in Belgium is “Paling in ’t groen” - so somebody should tell them to politely decline all dinner invitations.

Many people called on the aquarium (mainly those who couldn't afford a phone) to offer access to the eels via another app so that those using PCs and phones with Android operating systems could take part.

“I never regretted my Android phone this much before,” one wrote. Probably Tim Cook.

A similar state of affairs has been reported in New Zealand where the keas and gorillas in particular seem to be feeling lonely.

Puzzles, perfume and new types of play have all been deployed to keep the more curious inmates engaged and happy.

Just like most bedrooms after three years of marriage.

Nathan Hawke, from Orana wildlife park near Christchurch in the South Island says that the rhinos keep turning up for their 3.15pm appearances – when they usually get a belly rub – while the giraffes remain punctual for their noon and 3pm commitments.

Well the pubs shut at 3 p.m. and what else are you going to do? If you were to catch my brother at 3:15 he would be up for a belly rub too.

Mr. Hawke apparently went on to say “People provide a great real-life stimulation for the animals, some of our very social animals, such as kea, are thinking something odd is up,”

Exactly how he knows what the birds are thinking beats me. But I’m not going to knock it. If I ever find myself in a stand-off with a kea, Mr. Hawke is my go-to man.

The zookeepers are now taking llamas for walks, spraying cologne and perfume in hiding places to intrigue the lions, and offering puzzle feeders or playing unusual sounds to keep the keas on their claws. Those keepers could save themselves a lot of trouble and provide maximum stimulation for all involved by putting the lions in with the lamas and kias. Unusual sounds and smells are guaranteed and you would’t need Mr. Hawke to read anybody's thoughts.

At Wellington zoo in the North Island, animal care manager Joanne Thomas said dingos had been taken to visit other zoo animals to keep them busy.

Are we talking about keeping the dingos busy or the other animals? If I were a rabbit I'd be nailing my schedule to the side of my cage to prove I hadn't a second to spare. And anyway, with the best will in the world, what are they going to talk about? We have all done those excruciating visits to elderly relatives. "Have you had your tea? What did you have for tea? How's your bladder?" Nobody is a winner. Just get Netflix.

Ms. Thomas went on to say “We do believe it is as engaging for the animals as it is for the visitors when the two interact. Otters for example can be very interactive with our visitors. Now we are seeing them focus much more on the keepers than they usually do."

"When the tigers follow suite it’ll be time to change our trousers”. As I wish she had added.

It is a public holiday today in Belgium. I know that now because the bin bags are still in front of the house. Bugger.

We are getting there. And we are getting kinder.



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