Video Camera Technology in Zoos
Technology today has become a huge part of our everyday life, and our reliance on it continues to increase. Advancements in technology further increase our dependence in all areas of our lives because of how it makes our personal lives and work easier and more efficient. While it is obvious how the newest gadgets like cameras on iPhones and GoPros have affected our personal lives, there is little attention paid to how they help businesses. In this article we focus on how Zoos and Aquariums benefit from the latest developments in sensor and camera technology that is revolutionizing the guest experience and providing staff enhanced abilities to take care of animals and visitors.
While almost anything arguably can be considered technology, there are several key components being used in a business such as a zoo or aquarium. Many businesses of these types utilize numerous different technologies to make the facilities more secure, add to the guest experience, and monitor the animals that are on exhibit. Security cameras are very important to facility operations and to adding to the general care of the animals and the safety of both the animals and guests.
In addition to video technology, there are also card readers, alarm systems, and temperature controls, just as a few examples that can be employed for security use as access control, or for the care of animals. Sensors like temperature sensors allow staff to monitor the temperature of an exhibit on hot days to make sure the animals don’t get heat stroke and not dehydrated. Motion sensors can also be employed to create an electric fence which can trigger an alert when visitors step over the boundaries into an exhibit.
Every business or organization is strictly limited by the amount of employees that work there. Technology aids to this by assisting employees to be more efficient, and keep a watchful eye on all operations. Camera systems help a great deal because while there simply cannot be an employee in every facet of a zoo or aquarium, there can be a camera dedicated to a certain location, monitoring and recording around the clock. This aids in safety and all other operations.
Web Camera Feeds
Web camera technology for streaming exhibits is also becoming increasingly more prevalent as more and more organizations are interested in showcasing different exhibits to the world. Web streaming video feeds are a great way of promoting the Zoo and sharing the exhibit with people from all over the world. This can create a lot of traffic and promotion for the Zoo. Web feeds can end up being linked to from other sites as well becoming part of a list of watchable camera exhibits, meaning more and more traffic for the Zoo which is ideal for long term visibility. In addition, they can be used for study and scientific research.
Here is a great example illustrating how web streaming enables Zoos to gain popularity. It is a live webcam for the Panda exhibit at the San Diego Zoo. These adorable animals are fun to watch, and have gained immense exposure for the Zoo thanks to this live webcam: http://zoo.sandiegozoo.org/cams/panda-cam
Caring for Animals
Technology such as a security camera system also assists in the care and watch that zoo keepers provide to the animals in their care. While animals in captivity are normally very healthy, occasionally they fall ill and can require constant observation to ensure they are nurtured back to health. From not being in their natural habitat to constant contact with germs and bacteria from being close quarters to humans, there are numerous potential threats to their health.
Cameras are commonly employed in Zoos and even in family owned farms to monitor and observe nursing and pregnant animals. Caretakers want to keep constant watch to assist with the birth if needed, especially in case of distress. Labor and parturition are also commonly documented for training purposes and sometimes research purposes.
Sometimes problems arise with particularly aggressive animals. Monitoring of animals through a live video feed allows trainers to make sure animals do not injure trainers or other animals. Cameras enable staff to stay out of close proximity while still keeping a watchful eye.
The number one concern for zoo keepers is the health and safety of their animals and camera technology helps with this task. Surveillance cameras make it easy for staff to make sure there are no guests abusing animals and that animals are not a danger to themselves or others.
Research studies about the nature and behavioral traits of animals have always been central driving forces in science and zoology. Video cameras placed strategically enable constant recorded documentation of animals’ day to day life. To researchers this is invaluable and even more reason to have camera technology in place.
Here is a great video demonstrating the use of video cameras in studying animal behavior. You will see Crystal, a polar bear at the Toledo Zoo biting and scratching at a camera mounted in her den.
When it comes to implementing cameras systems there are various challenges that an organization can face. Proper planning and guidance is crucial before installing a security system. There are many unexpected obstacles that arise when you are considering a large scale system to cover a large area. One common issue is the physical mounting and applications of the cameras. Cabling needs to be ran between areas and the cameras need to be physically secured in positions where they are unreachable by animals and guests. Cabling needs to be ran in a way that it is not a fire or tripping hazard to guests and staff. If cameras are within reach of certain types of animals they are at risk of being damaged and even causing harm to the animals as a result.
With so many challenges regarding the cabling and mounting restrictions of cameras, a common and popular concept is a wireless camera system to be used throughout the facility. While wireless cameras in theory would be perfect, they simply are just unusable on a mass scale. They pose too many limitations such as wireless signal strength to be practical, especially for professional uses. This turns into far too high of a technical and financial obstacle for most facilities to implement. Most facilities require a camera to be mounted correctly once and not constantly worked on. This alone poses issues as wireless cameras are often more finicky and need adjusting to be optimal. Also to be a standalone unit, a constant and efficient power supply is needed. For a constant, uninterrupted video stream, the signal needs to be very strong and clear and cannot go through big, solid obstacles. While in theory wireless camera systems might seem ideal, in practice they can be very challenging, expensive and impractical.
Many different organizations, especially aquariums, also consider underwater cameras for different aquatic exhibits. While the finished project is exceptionally good, there are numerous hurdles to overcome to get a functional underwater camera. Normally these cameras would still need to be in a protective structure unless they are designed for deep water use and even then there are limitations. In saltwater tanks, corrosion is a big concern and can destroy electronics, though even freshwater tanks can have their own issues. Debris and algae buildup can over time form mineral deposits that will ruin your cameras. Including a steady and powerful power source is not an easy or cheap task either.
Technology is perpetually changing the way Zoos and other animal care facilities function and operate. The daily challenges they experience are met with technological solutions. Having a security camera system aids to the overall safety and efficiency of Zoos. Live camera feeds enhance the guest experience and have revolutionized the way animals in Zoos are cared for.