Amid COVID-19 outbreak, Monterey Bay Aquarium, others offer live experiences from the comfort of home

Need an escape from your house? California's famed Monterey Bay Aquarium is offering online viewers around the world a chance to visit their facility without making the physical trip via 10 live webcams of animals from sea otters to jellyfish.

The free webcams are available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. PT on the aquarium's Facebook page, its YouTube channel and its website.

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Specifically, the live views feature their fan-favorite sea otter tank, their kelp forest tank, bird aviary, penguins, open sea tank, jellyfish tanks and live views of the Monterey Bay, which surrounds the aquarium.

While most of the aquarium's 500-plus staff members are working from home under the threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19), key employees remain to maintain the building's operations and tend to the animals there. Those employees include security crews, maintenance workers, and workers who feed and care for the animals.

Monterey Bay Aquarium spokesman Ken Peterson told The Mercury News that the sea otters, sea turtles, fish, birds and other wildlife cannot be infected by the virus.

"The animals are doing great," he said. "They are getting the same level of care as they were before. We're closed on Christmas Day. So, it's kind of like that for them now."

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According to Peterson, during a typical day, about 120 people are watching the wildlife cams online live at any one time. Since the coronavirus outbreak, that number has increased exponentially -- more than eight-fold in recent days to more than 1,000 viewers.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is not the only institution offering wildlife webcams. Zoos and museums are also offering more remote experiences.

Texas's Dallas Zoo began sharing behind-the-scenes footage and educational videos on social media with the hashtag #BringTheZooToYou.

In a viral video with more than 3.5 million views, the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago caught some of its penguins sneaking into their "Amazon Rising" exhibit.

The Cincinnati Zoo is also offering a live at-home safari on its Facebook page each weekday at 3 p.m. ET. The video's first guest? The beloved hippopotamus Fiona.

Meanwhile, the San Diego Zoo directed people last week to 10 live webcams that feature the zoo’s koalas, penguins, tigers and other animals. There was also access to archival footage of giant pandas that were returned to China.

"Our team is doing all we can to lift spirits during this challenging time," Monterey Bay Aquarium's Executive Director Julie Packard tweeted Friday. "I'm so grateful for their dedication!"