Since the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago closed to the public last month, beluga whales Kayavak, Mauyak and baby Annik haven’t had many visitors. But recently, they greeted an unusual guest: a 30-year-old rockhopper penguin named Wellington, who waddled around on the side of the glass usually reserved for humans.
As the Aquarium notes in a Tweet, the belugas were “very curious about this little rockhopper. Belugas are northern hemisphere animals, so they would likely never see a penguin!”
While zoos and aquariums across the country remain closed to the public during the COVID-19 pandemic, visitors are limited to essential staff, reports Jason Bittel for the Washington Post. To fill the time—and the empty hallways—some caretakers are taking their wards on so-called “field trips” to meet other animals.
The trend makes for cute cross-species content and delights social media users, reports Joshua Bote for USA Today. In a YouTube video posted last month by the Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, Connecticut, a sea lion floats at eye level with a tegu, a large species of lizard, on the other side of its glass tank. The tegu flicks its tongue, and the sea lion keeps turning its head to look at the creature.
Kittens and puppies from the Atlanta Humane Society got in on the action last week, visiting jellyfish at the Georgia Aquarium, according to the Society’s statement. Ralphie the red-footed tortoise at the Buffalo Zoo in Buffalo, New York, crept alongside the glass enclosure of an intrigued polar bear, per the zoo’s Tweet. Hector, a Patagonian mara at the Fort Worth Zoo, met up with some otters who “appeared to be curious about their new visitor,” the zoo Tweeted, reports Antonia Noori Farzan for the Post.
At the Shedd, groups of penguins hopped around the building’s rotunda and the Amazon rainforest exhibit, reports Steven Johnson for the Chicago Tribune. Another Shedd resident, Tyson the prehensile-tailed porcupine, made a trip to the penguin habitat—although in the video, he seems less intrigued by the penguins and more interested in his snack: a hard biscuit, for filing down his ever-growing teeth.
“While Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium may be closed to the public, animal care staff and veterinarians are onsite 24/7,” a Shedd spokesperson tells the Post. “Without guests in the building, caretakers are getting creative in how they provide enrichment to animals — introducing new experiences, activities, foods and more to keep them active, encourage them to explore, problem-solve and express natural behaviors.”