Animal herders at an aquarium in Japan were surprised by the exquisite taste of local penguins, who showed a preference for high-value fish over cheap ones. Birds’ rejection of other food options has been recorded by professionals and shown that some of them switch their beaks to simpler foods.
The small protest was held at the Hakone-en Aquarium in Kanagawa, southwest of Tokyo. In the footage, an employee of the establishment waves a mackerel near a penguin to get his attention, but the animal ignores him.
The caretaker insists that he bring the fish close to the penguin’s beak, but he walks away. The same reaction is observed with otters that fill up on the fish and then leave.
The aquarium’s management has indicated that this strange behavior among penguins and other animals is linked to inflation and rising food prices, CNN affiliate TV Asahi reported.
The economic situation of the country caused the responsible species to make changes in their diet, giving preference to low-cost items. However, the animals seem to refuse to accept the new reality.
Previously, the caretakers offered penguins and otters a fish “agey”, also known as horse mackerel, which the animals ate with pleasure. But its price has gone up 20% to 30% since 2021, prompting managers to look for food alternatives that don’t significantly affect expenditures. Therefore, carers began to offer mackerel.
Hakone-in Aquarium is home to 32,000 animals, including sharks, penguins, otters, and seals. Since the change in diet was not well received by most of them, the staff had to be creative to encourage the animals to expand their tastes. Some experiments have been successful, for example, mixing mackerel with penguins’ favorite aji has attracted their attention and encouraged them to try the new meal.
“Ideally, they would like a whole omelette, but they patiently eat mackerel,” explained hobbyist Hiroki Shimamoto.
The official claimed that penguins and otters have their preferred type of fish and that the aquarium is always looking for the best solution to meet their needs.
“All aquarium animals are family friendly and we do our best to keep them healthy. We will never force an animal to eat what it doesn’t want. We would like as many people as possible to come visit Hakone and enjoy our animals.”
Cost reduction does not only apply to animal meals. The department has also worked to reduce the use of circulation pumps, from two pumps to one, which has so far contributed to savings of 40% to 50% in electricity.
“We can increase the entrance fee to the aquarium and correct this problem, but we would like to do our best to keep our facility in a comfortable place for our guests to visit. We are not planning to raise the entrance prices,” Shimamoto said.
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