Animal house: 15 ways to go wild in lockdown

Living Well | Sue Hewitt | Posted on 17 April 2020

Go wild at home. Here are 15 compelling wildlife experiences to enjoy in lockdown.

Zoos have closed around the world, but no one told the animals, who continue to put on a daily show. 

In the absence of daily visitors, wildlife organisations have turned to livestreaming and social media so we can watch their animals as they play, pounce, eat, groom and snooze their way through the day.

Zoos Victoria has an Animals at Home program streaming live from Melbourne Zoo, Werribee Open Range Zoo and Healesville Sanctuary, while further afield the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington DC has set up Panda Cam so you can watch giant pandas at play.

You may need some patience as animals don’t always perform on cue and heavy traffic to some websites might cause glitches, but it’s definitely worth persevering for a close-up view of the world’s most magnificent creatures.

Snow leopard cub hiding between rocks at zoo

15 wildlife experiences you can have at home

See snow leopards at Melbourne Zoo 

Melbourne Zoo has Cub-Cam starring three snow leopard cubs born at the zoo on 26 January. When not in their private den with mum Miska they’re out exploring and play-fighting. Be warned the cameras might not always be at the right spot at the right time, so you may miss them. But the cubs are usually fed between 9 and 10am daily so that’s a good time to tune in. 

Turn your living room into an Animal House

Zoos Victoria’s Animals at Home project has cameras on its giraffes, zebras, lions, penguins, tree kangaroos and echidnas. Meal times are listed for some animals. For example, the Fiordland penguins in their black-and-white ‘tuxedos’ have morning and afternoon tea. Most civilised.  

Monkey around with the baboons at San Diego Zoo

You can keep tabs on baboons, orangutans and other apes gorging on fruit, grooming each other and generally monkeying around at one of the world’s best zoos, San Diego Zoo. This zoo has about a dozen livestream cameras trained on creatures ranging from butterflies to elephants. Its resident polar bears make for hilarious viewing, as they roll on their backs, legs in the air like puppies wanting a scratch, or walk backwards to avoid doing a tight turn. Bird lovers can see a burrowing owl or the largest bird of prey in the world, the condor, while cat fanciers can spy on tigers. 

Go on an African couch safari

Take a virtual safari to see Africa’s big five – lions, leopards, elephants, buffalo and rhinoceroses through Africam. Cameras have been set up at remote African watering holes and rivers to film animals in real-time beaming high-definition video from remote locations to your home screen. You’ll see prides of lions with cubs all lined up at the water’s edge for a drink. There are highlighted pre-recorded videos as well, including one showing a herd of elephants flapping their ears to cool down as they take refreshment from a pond. 

See inside a penguin burrow 

You may not be able to go to see the penguin parade at the moment, but Phillip Island Nature Parks staff have installed a camera inside a penguin burrow, taking a bird’s-eye view to a different level. If the penguins aren’t home when you tune in, you can always watch pre-recorded footage of two adult penguins, showing one cradling an egg between its feet while its partner grooms it in the safety of a burrow. 

Taking a dip 

Some of the world’s most chilled monkeys are in Japan at the Jigokudani Yaen-koen national park. It’s the only place in the world where troops of wild Japanese macaque or snow monkeys bathe in a hot spring. The stream is a bit clunky and disjointed but you can clearly see the animals taking a dip. 

Tune into Taronga TV 

Who doesn’t love watching a meerkat pop its head up to see the world? These cheeky creatures are among the stars of Taronga TV which is beaming live from Taronga’s zoos in Sydney and Dubbo. Other stars include seals that glide past the window in their watery home as well as an Asian elephant calf playing with his mum, dad and aunt. 

Virtual aquariums 

Sea Life aquariums in Melbourne and Sydney are live-streaming feeding times for their marine creatures including the 5.5-metre crocodile Pinjarra. For daily feeding times and other scheduled activities including story times, workshops and educational sessions, follow the aquariums on Facebook. For those who want an instant fix you can dive into pre-recorded videos of shark feeding on their Facebook home pages. 

Have a whale of a time

The fact that beluga whales are found in the planet’s freezing arctic and sub-arctic regions won’t stop you feeling warmly at home with these bulb-headed beasts in their rock-lined home at the Georgia Aquarium in the US. It’s using web-cam for several exhibits and you can stream them live or catch up on what you’ve missed during the day. If you need a break from isolation, a really relaxing live-stream of jellyfish bobbing away could be the answer. For a fright night, tune into the live stream of the ‘gator crossing’. 


Cheeky monkeys playing in pond

Monkey around with the cheeky critters at San Diego Zoo.

Join in on panda playtime at the Smithsonian

Tune in to panda playtime at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington DC.

Cuddle up to giant pandas

Giant pandas have that teddybear-like come-cuddle-me appeal that lifts your spirits. The Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington DC is delivering panda love via panda-cams. You can watch the Smithsonian’s pandas Tian Tian and Mei Xiang snuffling around, having a sneaky snack or just being cute. Speaking of cute, there’s also a livestream of cheetah cubs suckling on their mum.

But for pure “what in the hell is that?” value, check out the zoo’s naked mole rat. So ugly it’s cute, this hairless, rat-like creature lives in chambers at the end of winding tunnels captured by cameras. 

Keep an eye on ChookCam

Perhaps more reassuring than riveting, ChookCam (the name is trademarked) streams live footage of, Ecoeggs’ free-range hens roaming in and out of a barn, scratching around and doing what chooks do best – not a lot. It’s calming viewing. 

Reptiles online

Like many wildlife organisations, the Australian Reptile Park in Queensland is using Facebook to showcase its extreme predators – crocodiles – and the work of its head guy Tim Faulkner. It has educational live streams daily not only on crocodiles but also giant tortoises and frogs.

Follow flaming flamingos

The gaily dressed flamingo must be one of the world’s great party animals with its candy-pink plumage and elegant pins. Baltimore’s Maryland Zoo lets you watch its flock stalk through wetlands looking for tasty morsels. Also tune in to see giraffes and lions and there’s even Goat-Cam.

Hip, hip hippos!

The Cincinnati Zoo has a daily ‘home safari’ Facebook event starring characters like Fiona, a popular baby hippo, and then loads these videos to YouTube. This American zoo donated merchandise profits towards Australia’s bushfire wildlife relief projects earlier this year. 

Real-time Africa

You can become part of this wildlife show by interacting with rangers on South African game reserves in real-time. Available on TV and the internet, it follows animal characters like Scarface, a big male lion, and his three brothers the Musketeers, or Kakenya, a graceful cheetah and huntress. There are sunrise and sunset virtual tours with the hours given in Central African and Eastern Standard Time.