- 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.
The Belugas were especially fascinated by Wellington, a rockhopper penguin.
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.
Wellington, meet the belugas! ???? ???? This weekend, Wellington visited Kayavak, Mauyak and baby Annik, who were very curious about this little rockhopper. Belugas are northern hemisphere animals, so they would likely never see a penguin! pic.twitter.com/XrpF3BlKnu
— Shedd Aquarium (@shedd_aquarium) March 30, 2020
Magellanic penguins Tilly and Carmen also got to roam around the empty aquarium, meeting Kayavak for the first time on their “polar field trip.”
Time for a polar field trip! ????????❄️ Penguins Tilly and near-yearling Carmen came face to face with beluga Kayavak. Not all penguins live in super cold regions. Magellanic penguins like Tilly and Carmen are temperate-weather birds. pic.twitter.com/oDZUL1NIG1
— Shedd Aquarium (@shedd_aquarium) March 29, 2020
Staff have been using the empty aquarium as a chance to enrich their animals in new and exciting ways.
“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.
“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.”
The aquarium later revealed on social media that Wellington now has a “favourite fish” that he found during that particular field trip.
Where's Wellington?? ???? Fun fact: Wellington had a "favorite fish" on his field trip through Amazon Rising! He seemed extra interested in the neon-colored cardinal tetras. pic.twitter.com/Jv4zCCPYzj
— Shedd Aquarium (@shedd_aquarium) March 24, 2020
Edward and Annie, a bonded pair of rockhopper penguins who are together for the nesting season, got to tour the aquarium’s rotunda.
They even checked 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.
Wellington meets the sea otters! ???????? Wellington the rockhopper continued his field trip around the aquarium by visiting the Shedd otter habitat. #WheresWellingtonWednesday (1/2) pic.twitter.com/VlEeDzSoIV
— Shedd Aquarium (@shedd_aquarium) March 18, 2020
Where's Wellington now? ???? This little rockhopper took a tour of Shedd's Wild Reef…and he's not alone! A few of the Magellanic penguins that call Shedd home joined this penguin party, checking out this massive habitat. pic.twitter.com/NcKkOtGdPw
— Shedd Aquarium (@shedd_aquarium) March 21, 2020
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.
At 32 years old, Wellington is no spring chicken (and not just because he’s a penguin!) He is more than double the life expectancy of a rockhopper. Thanks to laser therapy and cataract surgeries, he’s “still got it” and can enjoy going on enriching adventures. (2/2) pic.twitter.com/nWY9MlR0lR
— Shedd Aquarium (@shedd_aquarium) March 18, 2020
There's so much for Bosco to see on his adventure in Underwater Beauty! ????
Penguins like Bosco the rockhopper stand out with those bright yellow "eyebrow" crest feathers. During mating displays, rockhoppers shake their heads to make those long yellow plumes whirl. pic.twitter.com/ubiu5Z1R32
— Shedd Aquarium (@shedd_aquarium) March 27, 2020
When in the water, penguins are powerhouses! ????????
Magellanic penguins are excellent long-distance swimmers. With their powerful wings, they can hit speeds of 15 mph. Monte explored the Polar Play Zone and stopped to watch Dolores and Mercedes swim. pic.twitter.com/dYiDhdGhNM
— Shedd Aquarium (@shedd_aquarium) March 25, 2020
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.
The penguins aren’t the only animals taking field trips around the aquarium! Tyson the prehensile-tailed porcupine visited the penguin habitat while munching on a hard biscuit, which helps file down his constantly-growing teeth. pic.twitter.com/X2PpEHt1L3
— Shedd Aquarium (@shedd_aquarium) March 19, 2020
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.”
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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