Human visitors have vanished from the halls of the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, and the penguins are taking over. Since the aquarium temporarily shuttered its doors as a part of their coronavirus response, caretakers have been taking some of the aquarium’s penguins on adorable tours of the facility.
Shedd’s Twitter updates sent me down an underwater rabbit hole into the soothing world of animal distractions. The penguin’s excursions are one of the many ways that shuttered zoos and aquariums are keeping their public engaged. Thousands of miles away from the Shedd, the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California has a wide selection of live cams up and running.
Most of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s webcams are available during set hours, with reruns playing during downtime. (If you want to watch sea otters live, for example, you’ll need to tune in between 10AM and 10PM PT.)
Personally, the jellies are my jam.
If you’re more of a vertebrate person, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo has webcams available for giant pandas, lions, elephants, and naked mole rats. Yes, naked mole rats. If seeing their hairless little bodies calms you down, you do you. The Smithsonian’s webcams stream 24/7, but since the zoo shut down, they are not being staffed by volunteers — that means the animals might sometimes wander out of frame from time to time.
But if you tune into the Houston Zoo’s cameras, you get a chance to direct the action. People tuning in to some of the live streams can click on a button in the lower right corner of the screen, allowing you to zoom in and around the habitats for about a minute. It’s a little finicky to use, and you may have to wait in line for your turn to direct the camera, but it’s still fun.
Traveling a little farther afield, you could tune in to the watering hole at Djuma Game Reserve in South Africa. A worker keeps it on in the mornings and evenings and spots impalas, birds, and the occasional hippos and elephants.
Most of the live streams are simply soothing — good things to glance at when you feel your anxiety rising, or just need to look at scenery that isn’t right outside your window. The Cincinnati Zoo is going one step further — they announced that every weekday at 3PM ET they’ll do a Facebook live stream showcasing an animal in their exhibits and include an activity for kids to follow along with at home.
And if you want even more variety, Explore.org has a ton of animal live streams ranging from cuddling kittens to nesting bald eagles. They even have a prerecorded meditation of bears catching salmon (and other wildlife), to tide us all over until the internet’s beloved bear cam comes back this summer.