Penguins in a Japanese aquarium are fed cheaper fish – and they’re not happy

(CNN) — An aquarium employee waves a mackerel near a penguin, but there is no reaction. When she brings the fish closer to her beak, the penguin turns away haughtily. An otter sniffs the fish, then runs away.

For the penguins and otters at Japan’s Hakone-en aquarium, an hour’s drive southwest of Tokyo, inflation and rising prices have led to a change in diet – and the animals aren’t. are not happy.

Before, the aquarium offered penguins and “aji” otters, or Japanese horse mackerel, which the animals ate willingly.

But the aquarium, which is home to 32,000 animals including sharks and seals, was not immune to the economic difficulties plaguing many global economies. The price of aji has risen 20 to 30 percent since last year, the aquarium said.

So, to save costs, in May the aquarium switched to a cheaper alternative – “saba”, or mackerel.

It has not been well received, with aquarists having to get creative with encouraging animals to eat – for example, otters and penguins seem more willing to eat mackerel when mixed with their favorite aji.

The penguins clearly think that something smells like fish in the cost reduction at the aquarium.

Asahi Television

“Ideally, they would like to have a full aji, but they patiently eat mackerel,” aquarium keeper Hiroki Shimamoto told CNN affiliate TV Asahi.

The aquarium is also cutting costs by reducing the number of circulation pumps from two to one, which has cut its electricity bill by 40-50%.

“We could raise the aquarium entrance fee and fix this, but we would like to do our best to keep our facilities a comfortable place for our guests to visit. entrance,” Shimamoto said.

The aquarium says penguins and otters have their favorite type of fish and the aquarium does its best to accommodate their needs.

“All the animals in the aquarium are family and we do our best to keep them healthy,” he said. “We would never force an animal to eat what it doesn’t want. We would like as many people (as possible) to come and visit Hakone and enjoy our animals.”

Top image: An employee of the Japanese aquarium in Hakone-en waves a mackerel near a penguin, which turns away. Credit: TV Asahi

Lee J. Murillo