Aquarium Field-trip: A Penguin’s Covid-19 Experience

By Jessica W. ’22

Have you ever wondered what the animals at the aquariums do when visitors aren’t there? 

With the aquarium doors closed temporarily due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the penguins of Shedd Aquarium in Chicago were given temporary freedom to roam around and meet the other aquatic animals for the first time. “Without guests in the building, caretakers are getting creative in how they provide enrichment to animals,” a representative from Shedd aquarium told the Chicago Tribune. “Some of the penguins went on a field trip to meet other animals at Shedd,” staffers explained in an Instagram caption.

Wellington, a 32 year-old Rockhopper penguin, made repeated appearances on Instagram during his field trips to the sea otter, Amazon Rising fish, and Beluga whale habitats, as well as the Wild Reef exhibit. Wellington’s encounter with the Beluga whale was especially fascinating, as his face showed a mixture of horror and awe. In their natural, wild habitats, Belugas and Rockhopper penguins would likely never meet, so this was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience for both creatures.

Shedd Aquarium took to Twitter and social media to share live updates and videos of the penguin’s exciting excursions, and the videos have brought joy to thousands of people who are in quarantine. One Instagram user commented, “thank you guys so much for posting these! It provided much needed joy and warmed my heart. My love to Wellington, his crew and the most adorable sea otters I’ve ever seen!” Another happy viewer gushed that “this is the type of content we all need right now, it makes me so happy during these difficult times. Literally the best thing on the internet!”

The Shedd Aquarium is one of the many aquariums across America that are engaging with the public digitally during the quarantine. The Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California has live webcams set up for many of its exhibits. This virtual experience provides viewers with penguin cams both above and below water. Monterey Bay Aquarium has livestreams as well; the penguin cams are available to watchers from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Even zoos are getting involved with digital entertainment: The Kansas City Zoo is sharing captivating content on its social media pages, including live content of the giraffes and penguin livestreams on their YouTube channel.

During these uncertain and trying times, animal and exhibit livestreams have given many people a way to stay positive and engaged. Jenni Vega ‘22 remarks, “With everything going on around us, it is the little things, such as penguins getting to know their fellow neighbors, that keep us going and brings positivity into our lives!” So whether you’re bored during quarantine or want to see cute animals, you know where to go!