Lifestyle & Human Interest

Penguins Leave Habitat & Go Exploring After Aquarium Forced To Shut Down to Visitors


With many places taking preventative measures and shutting down large gatherings of people, it’s more than businesses that are affected. Museums, libraries, zoos, aquariums and other educational spots you might be tempted to visit with your kids while they’re out of school have also closed their doors temporarily.

Though in-person visits may be off-limits for the time being, many organizations are finding innovative ways to let people “visit” in safer ways — namely, from the comfort of their own homes.

On Friday, the governor of Illinois, J.B. Pritzker, and the mayor of Chicago, Lori Lightfoot, banned gatherings of over 1,000 and strongly discouraged gatherings of over 250, according to the Chicago Tribune. On Monday, Pritzker mandated that gatherings of over 50 people be canceled.

The shutdown has affected Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, which plans to be closed until March 29, but instead of simply accepting the necessity of the empty hallways, they’ve decided to use this unique situation to stage a bit of educational fun.

“Without guests in the building, caretakers are getting creative in how they provide enrichment to animals,” the aquarium told the Chicago Tribune, “introducing new experiences, activities, foods and more to keep them active, encourage them to explore, problem-solve and express natural behaviors.”

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“Penguins in the Amazon?!” the aquarium tweeted on March 15, along with a video of a single penguin checking out the exhibits.

“Some of the penguins went on a field trip to meet other animals at Shedd,” they continued. “Wellington seemed most interested in the fishes in Amazon Rising! The black-barred silver dollars also seemed interested in their unusual visitor.”

Since then, other penguins have joined Wellington in curious and good-natured strolls through the empty aquarium, in what feels a bit like a spin on the popular series of movies featuring nightlife in a museum.

“The adventure continues!” the aquarium tweeted the next day. “This morning, Edward and Annie explored Shedd’s rotunda.”

“They are a bonded pair of rockhopper penguins, which means they are together for nesting season. Springtime is nesting season for penguins at Shedd, and this year is no different!”

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One commenter pointed out that this could be a penguin date — but aside from the fact that the videos are adorable, they’re educational as well, introducing viewers to the resident penguins and their habits as well as giving people a tour of the aquarium.

They also let their followers know that they will be giving updates on the exciting nest-building that should be taking place in the near future and promised to provide more entertainment for housebound penguin lovers.

“Penguins like Edward and Annie will begin to build their nests next week,” they tweeted. “Join us digitally for nesting coverage! In the meantime, we will be sharing lots of different animal updates (and yes, Wellington will return!)”

“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!”

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