The Oregon Zoo has been open on and off for the past year, but throughout the pandemic, it never lapsed in bringing animal cuteness to a world desperate for small moments of joy.
Even before COVID-19, the zoo had an outsized social media presence—its punnily captioned videos frequently go viral on Twitter, even beyond Portland. (See the many clips of Filbert the beaver, aka “the branch manager.”)
But it was during quarantine that the zoo’s TikTok account really blew up.
The Oregon Zoo made its debut on the app in summer of 2019, with a video of a beady-eyed otter batting at a zookeeper’s keys to the tune of DJ Khaled’s “I Got the Keys.” When the coronavirus hit, the account’s average views per video skyrocketed: Clicks on Takoda the black bear splashing around in a tub of water, Lincoln the sea otter shucking an oyster, and Maple the beaver stuffing her jowls with carrot sticks are all in the millions.
During last month’s record-breaking heat wave—when it would have been miserable to visit the animals IRL—the zoo posted videos of Samudra the elephant and Nora the polar bear cooling down in pools of water and piles of ice. It’s reassuring to know that in times of crisis, our zoo will come to us.