Video Ensures Animal Welfare at Dublin Zoo

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Author: Toyah Hunting

Case Story

Dublin Zoo had concerns about overnight attacks by wild animals and ostrich eggs being stolen. Keen to explore the use of video to help ensure animal welfare, the zoo has installed a comprehensive, centralized video management system to manage the growing number of IP cameras deployed to serve needs such as perimeter security and animal behavior studies.

Axis infrared cameras, integrated with Milestone XProtect Corporate video management software, enables live and recorded video to be viewed on five different PC viewing stations around the zoo via XProtect Smart Client. A total of 140 new Axis network cameras were installed by Milestone Expert Certified partner Kelcom.

Studying animal habits

Dublin Zoo now leads the way in the use of cameras to observe animal activities. They often provide video recordings and share live views with animal experts around the world.

Dublin Zoo’s Operations Manager, Gerry Creighton, regularly runs online training sessions, supported by the provision of live video from specific cameras during animal training sessions, births, veterinary procedures, feeding times and other key events.

Brendan Walsh, Senior Zookeeper at Dublin Zoo, recently completed a three-year study of the zoo’s eight elephants to better understand their sleep patterns and night-time behavior. His findings have provided new knowledge in this area: 

“Through intensive study of images gathered on the Milestone system from IR cameras installed in the bull and cow elephant houses, we learned a great deal about the varied sleeping patterns of elephants at different ages. Elephants sleep on average about four hours per night. They get this sleep in chunks, which tend to get longer as they get older. A young elephant will wake up more than 20 times per night, but older ones may only rise four times between the hours of 12 and 7 AM. That said, the oldest cow of the group – the matriarch – will sleep very little when baby elephants are around, as it as her job to alert to any impending danger,” Walsh says.

Global knowledge sharing

Dublin Zoo has several cameras deployed in the elephant training area, where animals are taught to do a variety of activities, from presenting their feet for a routine pedicure or making it easier for keepers to perform medical inspections. Recordings from this training area are sent to Alan Roocroft, a world-renowned expert in elephant behavior, based in San Diego.

Every week, Alan reviews recordings of training sessions and informs Dublin Zoo of any concerns – all without the expense of flying him over to gain these insights. Veterinary consultants can also be sent video if keepers have animal health concerns.

Irish national television channel RTÉ has a three-month series called The Zoo which has been running for the last six years. The production team regularly uses video recordings from the zoo’s system for the show – airing elephant, big cat and gorilla births. This, combined with the use of five webcams displaying live views of animals on the zoo’s website, has helped Dublin Zoo build its visitor numbers substantially.

Read our full case story here.