The penguins who were let loose in a Chicago aquarium met Beluga whales, and it's hard to tell who was more starstruck

Shedd AquariumPenguins at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago got to go on a field trip to meet the Beluga whales after it closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The penguins at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago stole America’s heart when they explored the empty aquarium after it closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • And now the penguins are roaming the aquarium again, this time meeting some majestic Beluga whales.
  • The whales were absolutely captivated by the penguins, coming right up to the glass to get a closer look.
  • Shedd’s zookeepers told Insider that these field trips provide enrichment for the animals while the aquarium remains closed.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

In the midst of a news cycle filled with few uplifting stories, hearts across America were instantly warmed by the sight of adorable penguins exploring an empty aquarium.

And thankfully for all of us, the penguins at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Illinois, have continued their field trips as the space remains closed.

This week, the sweet penguins got to meet three Beluga whales named Kayavak, Mayuak, and baby Annik.

Quarantine penguinShedd AquariumOne of the Beluga whales checks out Wellington during his field trip.

The Belugas were especially fascinated by Wellington, a rockhopper penguin.

Penguins quarantineShedd AquariumThe Belugas came right up to the glass to get a closer look at Wellington.
Quarantine penguinsShedd AquariumOne of the Belugas couldn’t take their eyes off of Wellington.

This was likely the first time the whales had ever seen a penguin. While Beluga whales live in the Arctic Ocean in the Northern Hemisphere, penguins are native to the Southern Hemisphere.

The whales couldn’t take their eyes off of Wellington during the visit, swimming right up to the glass to get a closer look at him.

Magellanic penguins Tilly and Carmen also got to roam around the empty aquarium, meeting Kayavak for the first time on their “polar field trip.”

Staff have been using the empty aquarium as a chance to enrich their animals in new and exciting ways.

Penguins quarantineShedd AquariumThese field trips provide a new way to keep the animals enriched while the aquarium remains closed.

“While Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium may be closed to the public, animal care staff and veterinarians are onsite 24/7,” a spokesperson told Insider.

“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 behaviours.”

When the penguin field trips first began, Wellington got to check out the dolphins and “Amazon Rising” section and was clearly fascinated.

Penguins coronavirusShedd AquariumWellington was fascinated by the dolphins at Shedd.

“He seemed most interested by several of the freshwater fish species, including the red-bellied piranhas and the black-barred silver dollars,” the spokesperson said. “Those same fish seemed equally interested in Wellington, meaning the penguins aren’t the only animals receiving enrichment from these pop-up field trips.”

Penguins coronavirusShedd AquariumWellington was especially interested in the fish.

The aquarium later revealed on social media that Wellington now has a “favourite fish” that he found during that particular field trip.

Edward and Annie, a bonded pair of rockhopper penguins who are together for the nesting season, got to tour the aquarium’s rotunda.

Penguins coronavirusShedd AquariumEdward and Annie explore the empty aquarium.

They even checked out the information desk.

Penguins coronavirusShedd AquariumEdward and Annie check out the information desk.

Shedd Aquarium has continued to keep fans up to date on its penguins and their many adventures, which have included a trip to see the sea otters.

Shedd has also been using the posts to educate fans about its penguins, revealing that fan-favourite Wellington is actually 32 years old – double the life expectancy of a rockhopper.

And penguins aren’t the only animals who have been allowed to explore the empty aquarium. Tyson the porcupine got to meet the penguins as well.

Shedd’s zookeepers told Insider that, even during this time of uncertainty, it is important to keep things as normal as possible for their animals.

“Enrichment is a regular part of the animals’ day, so we are keeping the day for the animals the same,” they said. “A field trip in the aquarium is just enrichment we don’t do as frequently.”

“Being closed doesn’t affect the animals, they still get to see the animal care staff they would normally see on a daily basis.”

For those who want to help the aquarium during these difficult times, there is even the option to symbolically adopt an animal at Shedd – including penguins.

Penguins coronavirusShedd AquariumShedd’s zookeepers are still on hand to take care of the animals, and are making sure they get plenty of enrichment.

Shedd officially shut its doors on March 13 in “the best interest of overall wellness for our community and for each other.”

“While we are disappointed that we won’t be able to welcome you to the aquarium during this time, we are closing out of an abundance of caution and to do our part in the social distancing efforts to help stop the further spread of novel coronavirus,”the statement read.

“Our dedicated caretakers and veterinarians will continue to provide the highest standards of professional care and welfare for our animals on site.”

The aquarium is scheduled to remain closed through April 20.

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