When it comes to live Webcams, live can mean anything
from streaming real-time video to a still picture that
refreshes every few seconds or. . . yawn. . . every few
If I have to wait more than 20 seconds
for a picture to refresh, the Webcam might as well be
called the Watching Grass Grow Cam.
My sister homeschools her grandson and oftentimes I
scour the Internet like a hound dog chasing down a rabbit
as I search for sites I think the little guy will get
a kick out of and sites that will, of course, further
He is very interested in animals and has probably devoured
every animal book in the children’s section of the local
library. Animal programs on television are fun to watch,
but certain shows are only on at certain times and unless
the Crocodile Hunter is on every station, your zoological
channel surfing could turn out to be nothing more than
a wild goose chase.
Trips to the zoo reign supreme when it comes to seeing
animals live and up close. But there are times when
the tigers are too pooped to romp around their man-made
playground, or the black bears are hiding inside their
caves because it’s a scorcher of a day outside.
And what if you don’t live near any zoos or animal
That’s where the Internet and live zoo Webcams really
Our first stop on this zoo cam safari is the Smithsonian
National Zoological Park [http://nationalzoo.si.edu/Animals/WebCams],
where five live zoo cams are fixed upon elephants, pandas,
flamingos, Amazonia fish, and something bizarre called
a naked mole rat.
You need Windows Media Player to see the animals in
real-time video. If you don’t have the software, the
site provides a link where it can be downloaded for
free. Because of the popularity of the site, only 60
viewers can watch a single Webcam for 10 minutes before
they are automatically forwarded to a still image page.
This allows everyone a turn at watching the live video.
The Panda exhibit is so popular that the site actually
has two panda cams focused on its two primary residents,
Mei Xiang and Tian Tian. Want to know which is which?
The site has a ton of information about the exhibit
and how to tell the two pandas apart.
The Flamingo cam is filled with—you guessed it—pink
flamingos. The odd birds with the S-curve neck and backward-bending
knees look like they are posing for the opening scene
of Miami Vice. The Elephant Cam is set back and the
elephants to me seemed far away from view. But right-clicking
the mouse and choosing “zoom” and then clicking the
higher percentage of the close-up shot can zoom in all
the cams. Amazingly, the zoom feature doesn’t hurt the
integrity of the picture.
The Amazonia River Fish Cam is an underwater view of
such finned swimmers as the red-tailed catfish, black
pacu, guppy, and the pirarucu—one of the largest fresh
water fish in the world. The tank is set up in the zoological
park’s rainforest exhibit.
The next stop on our zoo cam safari, which takes us
to the aquatic side of the animal kingdom, is the Monterey
Bay Aquarium [http://www.mbayaq.org],
where indoor and outdoor exhibits bring the enchantment
of sharks, sea turtles, tuna, and other sea life into
your home without the fear of ever having a leaky fish
tank or enough brine shrimp to go around.
Nearly everyone loves to watch fish. Their rhythmic
motion and the gentle swirling of the water soothe humans.
We also love the feeling of fear as we watch—safely
from our seat in front of the computer—ominous sharks
slip into view.
The site has five Webcams powered by Loudeye. The neat
thing about this site is that you can jump from cam
to cam without having to hit the browser back button.
The Sea Otter cam is fixed on a bubbling pool where
Rosa and Mae have lived since 1999 and 2001, respectively.
Both came to the aquarium as abandoned pups and were
never quite acclimated to live in the wild. The Outer
Bay cam is just that—a large tank with over 80,000 gallons
of water and plenty of sharks, turtles, tuna, and other
sea creatures. The blue color of the exhibit isn’t created
by the water but by over 1.6 million 1-inch-square glass
tiles. The cam says it’s a live feed, but sometimes
the picture moves in fits and starts.
The Monterey Bay cam is a shot of Monterey Bay, naturally.
In the middle of the shot, jagged rocks protrude, daring
the waves to break around them. Sometimes there are
harbor seals basking on the rocks or playfully swimming
around them. The Kelp Cam is an underwater ballet of
beautiful green kelp climbing through deep blue waters
and reaching for the open sunlight above. The dance
is kept going by a surge machine that gently rocks the
kelp, keeping it in step. There are some neat little
fish in this tank and every once in a while a leopard
shark zooms by.
The Penguin Cam shot leaves much to be desired. There
are supposed to be 15 penguins in this exhibit, but
the camera shot is fixed on a rock where only about
two penguins “nest” every once in awhile. Otherwise,
you’re looking at a blank rock with a little pool of
water splish-splashing against it.
It’s the same with the Otter Cam. Blank rock. Dark
green water in the foreground. And when the otters do
happen to hop up onto the rock, they are so far away,
they look very small.
The Discovery Channel [http://dsc.discovery.com]
has several live Webcams but the best one is the Tiger
Cam that provides six cameras, bringing all angles of
the tiger habitat right to you. The tigers on display
live at the privately owned TigerHomes Animal Sanctuary
in Florida. Marcan and Sherikohn are the two Siberian
tigers who live here. The site is refreshed every 5
seconds or so.
The Polar Bear Cam is focused on a ledge with snow
and is refreshed every few seconds. The site even admits
that the bears are kept in another part of the exhibit
and may be out of site. However, it encourages you to
“watch long enough” and you just might get a glimpse
of Marty, and cubs Mizar and Alcoren.
The Penguin Cam here is set at the Polar World exhibit
at the Montreal Biodome in Montreal, Quebec. The Antarctic
section is home to about 46 penguins representing four
different species of the tuxedo-dressed birds. Again,
the camera is focused on a rock, so very few penguins
can be seen at one time.
Next stop is the Minnesota Zoo courtesy of Channel
4000. Point your browser to http://www.channel4000/livecams/animalcams
and head straight for the shark tank. The sand tiger
sharks swim straight for you, so don’t put your nose
too close to the computer monitor. Other harmless fish
fill the gaps between the wait for the shark to circle
its way around the tank again. Keep looking and an occasional
sea turtle or stingray will happen by. It’s like having
your own saltwater aquarium without the expensive upkeep.
There is another animal at the zoo called the Gibbon
monkey who gets a Webcam all to himself, and the neat
thing about this cam is that the viewer gets to control
it. Made possible by LiveWave, the Webcam allows viewers
to move the cam about, zoom in or out, and basically
spy on the little monkey in 30-second intervals. If
you become a member of LiveWave, you can control the
cam up to 4 minutes at a time.
So take your little ones on a zoo cam safari. It’s
safe, free, fun—and let’s not forget educational.
Linda C. Allardice
is a freelance writer with 20 years experience. She is
editor of Footnotes at Other Side of Creativity at www.oscweb.com.
She can be reached at LindaAll@aol.com.