THE antics of the UK’s only polar bears can now be watched worldwide thanks to a new webcam launched today at Highland Wildlife Park.
The camera will offer bear fans to get up close and personal with the playful pair, Walker and Arktos.
The streaming for Polar Bear Cam is handled by Camvista, who also run Edinburgh Zoo’s popular Panda, Penguin and Squirrel Monkey Cams, as well as the Park’s Snow Monkey Cam,.
The special camera also runs completely on renewable energy.
Due to the Park’s remote setting in the heart of Cairngorms National Park, it is powered by a solar panel and a mini wind turbine, and uses satellite broadband internet – the same technology that’s used by the military in isolated areas.
The operators say the innovative use of this technology could actually lead to advances in wildlife research in some of the world’s most inaccessible and harshest areas, including Antarctica, as it can be run remotely using natural power sources and satellite internet.
Jon-Paul Orsi, Digital Manager for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, said: “Following the popularity of our penguin and panda webcams at Edinburgh Zoo, we wanted to provide our online visitors with the opportunity to watch the UK’s only polar bears up at Highland Wildlife Park too.
“They are great candidates for a webcam as they regularly get up to mischief. Both Walker and Arktos are very boisterous young bears and love to wrestle or dunk each other in the pond.
“Their playful nature has made them a real favourite with visitors and I suspect it will be the same for the web cam viewers.”
He added: “Due to the challenges of the enclosure’s remote location, we didn’t think that such a webcam would be possible, however thanks to recent technological advancements it became feasible.
“As a result Polar Bear Cam is one of the most advanced installations we’ve created at either park, running completely on green energy and satellite broadband.
“A 12-volt solar panel system provides the main source of power for the camera, while a 12-volt mini wind turbine acts as a supplement during overcast days.
“Currently, the camera focusses on the enclosure’s large pond, which means watchers will now be able to see Walker and Arktos splash and play.”
Alex Kilgour, Managing Director for Camvista, said: “We have worked with RZSS on many animal cams, such as Edinburgh Zoo’s penguin cams, which have proven to be immensely popular.
“Polar bear cam is the first time we – or anyone else we know – have used satellite broadband for streaming a webcam of this nature.
“By combining renewable resources with satellite broadband to run a web cam, we have potentially come up with a solution for remotely watching wildlife without the need of constantly changing batteries or waiting to watch the footage later.
“Footage filmed by the cams can be watched in live time from anywhere in the world, which could have an enormous benefit to environmental research.”
The camera’s power system was designed and installed by Vuterra, whose managing director Reg Pope said: “Coming up with a system that suited the isolated nature of the Park was a challenge.
“The University of Aberdeen’s engineering department helped design the power supply for converting and storing the electricity generated by the solar panels or wind turbine to be used by the satellite web cam system.
“The system design is fully self-contained and will run on battery back-up for up to three days without charging.
“Being on the top of the polar bear viewing hut to install the camera, solar panels and wind turbine was an amazing experience.
“Although the polar bears were locked into a different part of their enclosure, it was incredible to be able to watch them from a bird’s eye view. They are very active, inquisitive and they are constantly playing together.”
Initially, Polar Bear Cam will stream live from 9:30am to 2:30pm, with pre-recorded footage then replayed outside of live streaming hours.
It can be watched via: http://www.highlandwildlifepark.org.uk/polar-bear-webcam.
• Photo supplied by Highland Wildlife Park - http://www.highlandwildlifepark.org.uk/