Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium is one of many attractions across the United States—and around the world—that have temporarily shuttered to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. While the lakefront aquarium is currently closed to outside visitors until March 29, its resident penguins got the opportunity to explore the empty exhibits on supervised walkabouts—or should we say, hop-and-waddle-abouts.
On Monday, March 16, the aquarium’s animal care staff (who are still onsite 24 hours a day to keep the animals healthy and active) shared some very important footage on Twitter: a group of Shedd’s penguins on a “field trip” throughout the aquarium. The videos, which in just a few days have amassed millions of views on Twitter, have turned the penguin personalities into virtual celebrities during this time of global hardship.
Penguins in the Amazon?! Some of the penguins went on a field trip to meet other animals at Shedd. Wellington seemed most interested in the fishes in Amazon Rising! The black-barred silver dollars also seemed interested in their unusual visitor. pic.twitter.com/KgYWsp5VQD — Shedd Aquarium (@shedd_aquarium) March 15, 2020
In one clip, a rockhopper penguin named Wellington visits the aquarium’s Amazon Rising exhibit, which features creatures from the Amazon River basin, the largest rain forest on Earth. At 30, Wellington is the oldest penguin at the Shedd Aquarium and has lived there since it opened in 1991.
Penguins like Edward and Annie will begin to build their nests next week. Join us digitally for nesting coverage! In the meantime, we will be sharing lots of different animal updates (and yes, Wellington will return!) (2/3) pic.twitter.com/eCYKOwdOMz — Shedd Aquarium (@shedd_aquarium) March 16, 2020
In another series of videos posted to the Shedd’s Twitter, a pair of bonded penguins named Edward and Annie wander throughout the empty aquarium, passing by a tank full of sharks and rays and an information desk. Edward and Annie, both rockhopper penguins, will begin to build their nest next week, according to the tweet from the aquarium. (This refers to the process when a male rockhopper arranges a selection small rocks in a circle to keep his mate’s eggs from rolling away, which either attracts a female, for unbonded rockhoppers, or reinforces an existing pair bond, as in Edward and Annie’s case.)
The Chicago institution has invited viewers to follow Edward and Annie’s nest building digitally, and we’ll update this article once the Shedd Aquarium provides more details about how to tune in.
While this may be a strange time for us, these days feel normal for animals at Shedd. Our caregivers are constantly providing new experiences for the animals to explore and express their natural behaviors with. Let us know what penguin activities you would like to see! (3/3) pic.twitter.com/ftlow7iPHl — Shedd Aquarium (@shedd_aquarium) March 16, 2020
The Shedd isn’t the only temporarily shuttered aquarium that’s sharing the penguin love right now. Cape Town’s Two Oceans Aquarium, which announced its closure due to coronavirus concerns on March 17, shared a video (originally posted in 2019) of some of its African and rockhopper penguins hopping down the aquarium’s stairs.
my favourite consequence of the covid-19 societal lockdown is aquarium penguins roaming around freely and when this is all over I for one welcome them as our new overlords pic.twitter.com/jRAQsF9nqm — sloane (sipihkopiyesis) (@cottoncandaddy) March 17, 2020
As an increasing number of people around the world are depending on virtual museum tours, performances, and classes to stay entertained during this period of self-isolation, it’s become extremely clear that one source of universal joy—and much needed relief—comes in the form of a penguin viewing party.
So aquarium staff everywhere, please keep the penguin “field trips” coming.