During times of uncertainty, it can be helpful to turn to the natural world for comfort and inspiration. In the early throes of the pandemic this past spring, a photo of two snuggly Australian penguins gazing at Melbourne’s city skyline made the rounds online — despite having been snapped over a year ago.
Photographer Tobias Baumgaertner captured on film a moment of affection between two penguins in 2019. The photos show the penguins, one male and one female, cuddling next to each other and gazing at the glittery evening skyline of Melbourne, Australia.
Baumgaertner simply thought it was a great shot, but the sweet story that accompanies the moment adds another layer of poignancy. On March 25, Baumgaertner posted the photo on Instagram, and wrote about the penguins’ beautiful love story in the caption.
“These two Fairy penguins poised upon a rock overlooking the Melbourne skyline were standing there for hours, flipper in flipper, watching the sparkling lights of the skyline and ocean,” the photographer wrote.
He also posted the adorable photo to his Facebook page:
But there’s a whole other layer of heartwarming tenderness to this image.
“A volunteer approached me and told me that the white one was an elderly lady who had lost her partner and apparently so did the younger male to the left,” Baumgaertner explained on Instagram. “Since then they meet regularly comforting each other and standing together for hours watching the dancing lights of the nearby city.”
So, both penguins are widowed? Okay, we’re going to need a bigger box of tissues.
The Instagram post garnered tons of likes — so, a few weeks later, Baumgaertner posted another image from the same moment. This time the female is caught nuzzling the male penguin, and the scene comes with a caption that connects the bittersweetness of the birds’ love story with the emotional experiences many people have had during the pandemic as they encounter illness and loss.
“Pain has brought them together (see PART 1),” Baumgaertner wrote in the caption. “I guess sometimes you find love when you least expect it. It’s a privilege to truly love someone, paradisiacal when they love you back.”
Even though some time has passed since Baumgaertner captured these images, they remain as sweet and relevant as ever — and they even just scooped the Community Choice Award at this year’s Ocean Photography Awards, which recognizes remarkable ocean photography that celebrates our beautiful blue planet, per the OPA website.
Meanwhile, other animals the world over have been providing some laughs during the pandemic, as they have taken to the streets and other urban areas that are usually overrun with humans while most people are staying indoors. With many roads now mostly deserted, some animals, like the goats in one Welsh town, have enjoyed the peace and quiet of their towns during the quarantine.
In Llandudno, a coastal community west of Liverpool in the United Kingdom, a herd of Kashmiri goats has been coming into town and nibbling on the local shrubbery while the town’s humans have been sheltering in place.
Journalist Andrew Stuart began reporting on the goats’ whereabouts on Twitter and, well, the whole thread is a true delight to read, especially once you reach the tweet in which Stuart just gives up and accepts his new goat overlords:
I, for one, welcome our new goat overlords pic.twitter.com/Fk5x6XaCLM
— Andrew Stuart: Still wears a mask (@AndrewStuart) March 30, 2020
Thank goodness for animal hijinks during difficult times!