What’s that outside your kitchen window? An orangutan? A Gentoo penguin? Nope, it’s just a squirrel. For animal lovers, the neighborhood wildlife might not be as exciting as the more exotic creatures that live in zoos and aquariums. Although their doors are temporarily closed, you can take a peek behind the gates and observe the animals through live streams captured by video cameras set up in enclosures and tanks.

“Maybe you’ve never seen a walrus before, so you could watch for a while and realize that even though they’re a little awkward on land, they are very graceful in the water,” said Carla Knapp, who works for the Indianapolis Zoo. “Or perhaps after a few days of watching our tigers, you may notice that they’re all drawn to the same tree or rock. That’s because they can smell the other tiger that was there a couple days ago.”

With the live footage, each episode is different. Maybe you will see the animals playing or snacking or sleeping. (Don’t be alarmed if there are no animals on view. It just means they have disappeared into a private area or a staff member was not available to move the camera.) Here are a few animal cams you should tune into:

Marine life

Option 1: Monterey Bay Aquarium in California has nine viewing options for animals (sharks and penguins, for example) and aquatic environments (kelp forest, coral reef). You can watch the sea otters dart through the water like Olympic swimmers or bob along with the moon jellies and sea nettles as they perform their ghostly dances. Or take a deep dive into the Ocean Sea and “swim” alongside tuna, sea turtles and pelagic rays. Visit montereybay ­aquarium.org/animals/live-cams.

Option 2: The Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta trains its lenses on nine marine settings and creatures, including beluga whales, piranhas, California sea lions and puffins, which are filmed from below to capture their tiny but bright orange feet. Visit georgiaaquarium.org/webcam/ocean-voyager.

Big cats

Option 1: The Indianapolis Zoo in Indiana is home to Amur tigers Maxim, Metis and Zoya. Tigers like to hang out by themselves, so you will typically see one at a time. When not napping — they are cats, after all — the tigers roam their habitat, sniffing out any threats or hunting for their next meal. To stimulate the cats’ senses, the zookeepers sprinkle scents throughout the area, such as powdered goat’s milk and perfume. The stinkier the smell, the happier the tiger. If the cats are hiding, check out the zoo’s other camera stars: Pacific walruses, penguins, macaws and long-tailed macaques. Visit indiana poliszoo.com/webcams.

Option 2: Unlike tigers, African lions are social creatures. Six cats live at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, and the three males and three females do not practice social distancing. Also check out the zoo’s other cameras documenting the giant pandas, naked mole-rats and elephants. Echo, a cheetah mom, recently moved her cubs into a den without a camera, but you can wait for her return. Visit national zoo.si.edu/webcams/lion-cam.


Option 1: Wave a human paw at the grizzly bear twins, Keema and Denali, which live at Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle, Washington. Their habitat includes a stream and pool where the brothers enjoy trout fishing. (The pool is off-screen, so you will just have to imagine their fishing skills.) The staff disperses food throughout the exhibit for a tasty scavenger hunt. Though twins, a sharp eye can tell them apart: Keema has a light-colored patch on his side, and Denali has a broader forehead. Visit zoo.org/bearcam.

Option 2: The Alaska Zoo in Anchorage recently removed Cranbeary, a female polar bear, from public view while the staff determined whether she was going to give birth. Baby season came and went, and the sugar-white bear is back in view. Watch her amble around her yard, which is filled with big bear toys such as a truck tire and garbage can. You might catch her giving herself a belly rub on a patch of snow. Visit alaska zoo.org/polar-bear-camera.


Option 1: With the San Diego Zoo’s ape cam, join the orangutan and siamang party that is often in full swing. The siamang clan consists of dad (Unkie), mom (Eloise) and child (Selamat); the orangutans include Satu, Indah, Karen and Aisha. If you see the apes crouching over a fake termite mound with a stick, they are digging for their version of gold: baby food, applesauce and other treats hidden by the staff. The California zoo has 12 animal cams, so you can switch it up with koalas, butterflies, baboons, pandas and more. Visit zoo.sandiego zoo.org/cams/ape-cam.

Option 2: At the Utica Zoo in Upstate New York, the cotton-top tamarins are hardly camera-shy and sometimes peer into the lens. Dharma and her 13-year-old sons, Tom and Sawyer, are active all day, grooming, feeding and bouncing among the branches. They share their habitat with the more mellow rhino iguanas, Blackfoot and Stubby. Visit uticazoo.org/livecam.