Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 4 July 2020

Penguins openly explore US museum during coronavirus closure

With the flightless birds going a little 'stir crazy' in quarantine, the zoo and museum teamed up to give them a cultural field trip

It seems that penguins like to take in a little culture too.

A group of Humboldt penguins from the Kansas City Zoo were allowed to tour the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Missouri for a dose of fine art.

With the coronavirus pandemic causing both institutions to shut down, the cultural field trip came about as the flightless birds were in need of stimulation. “Quarantine has caused everyone to go a little stir crazy, even the residents of the Kansas City Zoo,” the museum wrote on its Facebook page.

Speaking about the zoo’s animals, director Randy Wisthoff said in a video released on Friday, May 15: “We're always looking for ways to enrich their lives and stimulate their days, and during this shutdown period, our animals really miss visitors come out and see them."

With their distinctive waddle, the three penguins – Bubbles, 5, Maggie, 7, and Berkley, 8 – took the time to explore the museum’s collection of artefacts, sculptures, tapestries and paintings as they had the galleries to themselves.

“They seemed, definitely, to react much better to Caravaggio than to Monet,” observed museum director Julian Zugazagoitia in the same video. One of Caravaggio’s paintings, Saint John the Baptist in the Wilderness, which shows a figure draped in a deep red cloth, is currently on display at the museum.

The penguins also glimpsed at French artist Monet’s famous Water Lillies, featuring flowers rendered in soft hues of white and violet.

Since Humboldt penguins are native to Peru and Chile, museum staff tried to engage with them in their language. “These are Peruvians penguins so we were speaking to them in Spanish and they really appreciated art history,” said Zugazagoitia.

Updated: May 16, 2020 01:27 PM

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