Got an evening to kill? Why not allow the furry denizens of the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington DC to amuse you?

It’s summer and the many webcams of the zoo should be getting into daylight hours just after you finish dinner. The zoo boasts an astonishing array of cams; on top of the usual favourites, such as lions, tigers, gorillas, cheetahs, orangutans and a couple of wildly popular pandas, there is also a pair of fishing cats, a pond of flamingoes, six small-clawed Asian river otters, a kiwi, a giant Pacific octopus, a family of golden lion tamarins, a group of slothbears and two pairs of (highly endangered) clouded leopards.

While many of the animals are frequently off-camera — no doubt in an important meeting, to decide which of us they will eat first — we present some of the more reliably populated cams for the diversion of Crikey readers.

Thalia, the black-footed ferret (a species that narrowly avoided extinction, and is still fighting a drastically narrowed gene pool) has just had three kits, which are extremely squirmy. Thalia is reliably at home, and the night-vision cam means you can watch her snore under a pile of babies any time. This is a great tea-break activity; there’s nothing to soothe the mind like watching a ferret do nothing for five minutes.

Water-creature-wise, the Amazon River fishtank will do nicely if you don’t have a fish tank of your own, and prefer red-tailed catfish and arapaima to pixellated Facebook goldfish. The flamingoes can be relied upon to stand around, being pink and bendy-necked, for your amusement. The zoo has also created an amoebacam, trained (presumably) on a petri dish of pond water, where you can watch a variety of invertebrates going about their daily chores. Whatever those may be.

One of the zoo’s most fascinating webcam creatures is the naked mole rat. This astoundingly ugly animal — a blind, hairless rodent with two vastly overgrown front teeth — is the world’s only hive mammal. Mole rats have a single breeding queen, and rear young communally. The cam features a nesting chamber, where the mole rats can often be seen asleep in a terrifying, wriggling pile.

The zoo’s webcams will time out after a while, ensuring that you don’t get trapped watching an octopus for hours on end. Unless, of course, you want to.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey