(CNN) – An aquarium employee waves a mackerel next to a penguin – no reaction. When she brings the fish closer to her beak, the penguin turns away haughtily. The otter sniffs the fish and runs away.
Previously, the aquarium offered penguins and otters “aji” or Japanese horse mackerel, which the animals willingly ate.
But the aquarium, which houses 32,000 animals, including sharks and seals, has not been immune to the economic woes that plague many of the world’s economies. The price of aji increased by 20-30% compared to last year, the aquarium reported.
Japanese Aquarium employee Hakone-en tries unsuccessfully to tempt the penguins with mackerel.
So to cut costs, in May the aquarium switched to a cheaper alternative, sabu, or mackerel.
This was not well received as aquarium workers had to get creative to get the animals to eat – for example, otters and penguins seem more willing to eat mackerel mixed with their favorite aji.
“Ideally, they would like to have a full aji, but they patiently eat mackerel,” aquarium keeper Hiroki Shimamoto told CNN affiliate Asahi.
The aquarium also reduces costs by reducing the number of circulation pumps from two to one, which has reduced energy bills by 40-50%.
“We could raise the entrance fee to the aquarium and solve this problem, but we would like to do our best to make our facility a convenient place for our guests to visit. We do not plan to raise entry prices,” Shimamoto said.
The aquarium says that penguins and otters prefer 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,” the post reads. “We never force animals to eat what they don’t want. We would like as many people as possible to come to Hakone and enjoy our animals.”
Top image: Japanese Aquarium employee Hakone-en waves a mackerel next to a penguin who turns away. Credit: TV Asahi