By Tracey Dowdy
At a time when going on family adventures or even just getting outside to enjoy nature is a challenge, zoos and aquariums around the country are trying to fill the void with home safaris, virtual tours, and webcams of their most popular – and in one case usually hidden animal exhibits.
Kids can “visit” The Dallas Zoo through behind-the-scenes footage and educational videos on social media. Look for the hashtag #BringTheZooToYou.
Take your family whale watching at the Georgia Aquarium. Zookeepers have set up a webcam on their beluga whales so that kids can watch these magnificent and graceful animals.
Check out what those cheeky penguins at The Shedd Aquarium are up to. Keepers have allowed the penguins out of their enclosure while the aquarium is closed and have shared footage of the penguins’ explorations on social media. The penguins so inspired the Field Museum of Chicago, they let SUE the T-Rex out to explore.
The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is live-streaming a home safari on its Facebook page each weekday at 3 p.m. Past live streams (archived on their page) include the poison dart frog, Zulu the lady ross turaco, Eurasian eagle owls, and even watching Chinese alligators being fed their lunch.
Monterey Bay Aquarium has webcams set up on jellyfish, penguins, and sharks and even peek at the birds and sea mammals — like harbor seals and sea otters — that find refuge in Monterey Bay. Plus, for the first time, kids can watch the aquarium’s sea otter exhibit via webcam to see rescued sea otter pups interacting with their foster moms. Under normal circumstances, guests aren’t able to watch the pups learn and explore because they aren’t supposed to get comfortable around humans.
The Aquarium of the Pacific has seven different live streams, including two separate penguin live streams – one that shows what’s going on above the water; the other what’s going on below. Kids can also watch a jellyfish exhibit, or explore a shark lagoon webcam with several species of shark. There’s a mesmerizing live tropical reef live cam at the Blue Corner Reef off the corner of Palau, considered one of the most beautiful Coral Reefs in the world.
As a bonus, The Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary near Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, has fifteen live stream cameras on their resident koalas. Kids can watch the Young Koala Tracker, the Koala Forest, where most of the female koalas live, or the Koala Train, where they snuggle together. There’s one camera that is devoted to where they sleep, which – because koalas sleep 18 to 20 hours a day – is where they spend most of the time. As a bonus for those of us on the opposite side of the world, the cameras switch to night vision when the sun goes down so you can see what the koalas are up to In the dark. They also have live streams of bearded dragons, birds, dingoes, and the perentie, the fourth largest monitor lizard in the world.
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.