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Japanese aquarium's gifts for donations a hit in drive to help feed 15,000 sea creatures

Azuki, an Asian short-clawed otter, is seen holding a sign board with its pawprint on it at Umitamago aquarium in the city of Oita on Dec. 12, 2020. (Mainichi/Hyelim Ha)

OITA -- Unique marine animal-related gifts have helped an aquarium in this southwestern Japan city achieve the 6-million-yen (about $58,000) goal of its crowdfunding campaign in just two weeks to feed about 15,000 sea creatures at the facility as it has seen fewer visitors due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

    Due to the spread of the coronavirus, the aquarium Umitamago had no choice but to temporarily close from April 11 to the end of May. After it reopened, the number of visitors had dropped by about 40% compared to last year. It began a crowdfunding campaign in November to cover the cost of food and other necessities for the 500 types of animals at the aquarium.

    Donations can be made from 5,000 yen (about $48). In return the aquarium will be giving away items that are relevant to the animals, such as signature boards with an otter's pawprint, recordings of walrus sounds, T-shirts with footprints of penguins, pelican feathers and shark teeth. The whole aquarium will be reserved after its closing time for those who donate 1 million yen (roughly $9,664), with a dolphin show.

    Though Umitamago initially aimed to collect 6 million yen by the end of January 2021, it reached its target amount in about two weeks thanks to the popularity of the return gifts.

    Umitamago is continuing to accept donations through crowdfunding. The head of the aquarium's sales department commented, "We are thankful for all the support. We hope people will wait for the return gifts with excitement because we're preparing them while keeping pace with the animals."

    (Japanese original by Hyelim Ha, Oita Bureau)

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