An aquarium employee waved a mackerel at a penguin, but it didn't react. The penguin turns away proudly when she brings the fish closer to its mouth. The otter then sniffs the fish and runs.
Inflation and rising prices have forced a drastic change in the diet of the Japanese Hakone-en Aquarium penguins and other animals, which is an hour drive southwest from Tokyo.
The aquarium used to offer penguins and other otters "aji," which was Japanese horse mackerel. These animals ate them readily.
The economic woes of many countries affected the aquarium which houses 32,000 animals, including sharks and seals. According to the aquarium, the price of aji has risen by 20-30% since last year.
In May, the aquarium switched from mackerel to "saba" to save money.
The aquarium workers had to come up with creative ways to get the animals to eat it. For example, when the mackerel is mixed with their favorite aji, penguins and otters seem to be more open to eating it.
Hiroki Shimamoto, aquarium keeper, stated that they prefer a full aji but are content to eat mackerel.
The aquarium has also reduced costs by decreasing the number of circulation pumps to one. This has resulted in a reduction in its electricity bills by up to 40% to 50%.
"We could raise the aquarium admission fee and solve this problem, but we want to do our best for our guests to enjoy our facility." Shimamoto stated that they do not intend to raise admission prices.
According to the aquarium, penguins and otters prefer certain types of fish. The aquarium will do its best to accommodate them.
It said that all the animals in the aquarium are like family, and it does its best to keep them healthy. "We wouldn't force any animal into eating what they don’t want." We want as many people to visit Hakone and have a good time with our animals.