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Zoos and Aquariums Online

Air Date: Week of

A fully-grown Lady Ross’ Turaco from the Cincinnati Zoo. (Photo: David Ellis, Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

With shelter-in-place orders affecting much of the country, zoos, aquariums, and wildlife centers have had to close their doors. Many of these facilities have gone online to continue their mission with virtual visits, exhibit livestreams, and enrichment programs. Living on Earth's Aynsley O'Neill reports.


BASCOMB: It’s Living on Earth, I’m Bobby Bascomb

CURWOOD: And I’m Steve Curwood

Around the world, zoos, aquariums, and wildlife centers have had to close their doors to the public in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. In a few minutes, we’ll talk with the CEO of the New England Aquarium, who is one of the many zoo and aquarium leaders and staff who are working hard to care and provide for their animals, without the support of visitor revenues. But thanks to the internet you can still visit zoos and aquariums, as many facilities have gone online engaging folks with glimpses behind the scenes of how animals are keeping busy without daily visitors. Living on Earth’s Aynsley O’Neill has more.

O’NEILL: Zoos, aquariums, and wildlife centers across the country are doing more than ever before to provide virtual content, both educational and entertaining, for would-be patrons everywhere.

The Cincinnati Zoo hosts a daily Home Safari aimed at children who are stuck at home. They can meet an animal, like the newborn Lady Ross’ turaco chick. At nearly two months old, the chick is starting to pick up some of her adult colorings, with metallic blue feathers peeking through her black fuzz.

HANDLER: By the way, so this turaco, unfortunately, her mother passed away. And the next day we discovered there was an egg in there. And the mother – we went to take the egg to put it in an incubator, and she started hatching right in one of the curator’s hands, Jenny’s hands. Some of her favorite items here are these soaked pear pellets that we’re feeding now. Little bits of banana here, and grape, and papaya. You’re looking right into the camera there? Here you go. Have some more.

O’NEILL: When the home safari is done, the Cincinnati zoo gives instructions for a relevant craft project. A fully-grown Lady Ross’ turaco has a crown of bright red feathers – so the kids are encouraged to use materials around the house to make a crown to match. The Los Angeles zoo takes arts and crafts to another level with an endangered species draw-along with Brian Kesinger, an illustrator for Walt Disney Studios. He takes his audience step-by-step through his process for drawing a California Condor.

KESINGER: You can see how much even I am observing the actual animal, even though I’ve drawn for, you know, a long time, almost 30 years. I’m still always going back and learning and looking at all these cool wrinkles around the mouth. So, I’m going to go ahead, and you can do this too. Add just a little, little line, kind of curving up that way, and then down this way. (31 seconds)

O’NEILL: Like the Condor, every animal Brian draws is one that the LA Zoo is helping to save from extinction. There’s also the Wildlife Images Rehabilitation and Education Center in Grant’s Pass, Oregon. They post behind-the-scenes updates, so anyone can read about the dramatic rescue of two great horned owl chicks, or watch as a recently rehabilitated squirrel is given her lunch.

CARETAKER: We’re going to bring the baby squirrel out here. She came in about ten days ago, and she’s still on formula. She gets fed three times a day.


O’NEILL: And countless zoos and wildlife centers around the country are offering live camera feeds into the animal exhibits. So you can virtually visit the Smithsonian National Zoo to get your giant panda fix, or the Bronx Zoo to watch lemurs frolic. And at-home access isn’t just for land animals – sea creatures are getting plenty of attention as well. The Georgia Aquarium is posting its own live streams and educational programming. And they’re also holding storytime with children’s picture books, and virtual yoga sessions in front of their Ocean Voyager exhibit.

INSTRUCTOR: For everyone on this planet who’s going through something together, send out that intention. Cultivate that attitude. May all people everywhere be happy. May all people everywhere be healthy. May all people everywhere be filled with loving-kindness.

O’NEILL: And the New England Aquarium is hosting live question and answer sessions on their social media, as well as providing virtual experiences like watching a harbor seal get its teeth brushed – or even taking a dive inside the Giant Ocean Tank.


O’NEILL: For Living on Earth, I’m Aynsley O’Neill.



More from the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

More from the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Gardens

More from the Wildlife Images Rehabilitation and Education Center

More from the Georgia Aquarium

More from the New England Aquarium


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