China’s national treasure is a cute, playful bear
- By Ginger Hill
- Oct 01, 2013
Whether it was “Goldilocks and the Three
Bears,” “Hansel and Gretel” or “Red Riding
Hood,” we all had our favorite fairy
tales as children. As adults, it seems these stories
fade into the background of our memories, only
remembered if we have children of our own. Here’s
your chance to re-live the joy of fairy tales. So sit
back, relax and see how some integral players in
the security industry are helping to protect China’s
The Story Begins
Once upon a time, there were two giant panda bears,
Er Shun (female: “double smoothness”) and Da Mao
(male: “first born of Mao Mao”) who lived happily in
China. There they were treated like royalty, because
unfortunately, giant pandas are an endangered species
and highly-regarded by the Chinese culture as their
For about 12 years, the upper levels of the Canadian
and Chinese governments had been in contact,
speaking about giant pandas and how they could
work together to safely house this precious species as
part of a long-term conservation partnership between
the two countries. The decision was made to host a
breeding pair of giant pandas at the Toronto Zoo for
approximately five years, and Er Shun and Da Mao
were chosen for this great honor.
After an 8,000 mile journey from Chengdu, China via
an airplane stocked with bamboo, bamboo shoots,
apples, water and toys to ensure a comfortable flight
for the furry travelers, Er Shun and Da Mao were
quarantined for 30 days due to Canadian Food Inspection
Agency’s requirements. During this time,
both giant pandas were monitored and tested by the
Toronto Zoo veterinary team to make sure they were
Now, we all know that with such a beloved gift from
one country to another, safety and security measures
abound, so what was the Toronto Zoo to do? They
needed a hero, but three actually stepped forward (every
good fairy tale needs heroes, right?).
The Heroes (in no particular order)
Hero 1. Clark Northcott, business development manager
Schneider Electric Canada/Pelco, was armed
with security cameras and reins as the official CCTV
donator for the Giant Panda Exhibit.
With many options to offer Er Shun and Da Mao,
Clark helped Pelco decide which cameras would best
serve the giant pandas.
The Spectra HD, pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) dome camera
was chosen for the indoor and outdoor areas of
the panda’s habitat to provide 100 percent coverage;
Sarix fixed-dome cameras were also selected. The
cameras provide the opportunity for personnel to
safely monitor the pandas and quickly learn about
their furry friends while minimizing intrusion and
stress. Because of this, Er Shun and Da Mao gave
these choices eight paws up!
“I had some jealous work mates when I told them
about the zoo project,” Clark joked.
Hero 2. Hailing from Canada, Farley Schapira,
owner of Security Technology Services, armed with
tools and know-how, reins as the official installer of
security system for the Giant Panda Exhibit at the zoo.
Having previously worked with the zoo on several
projects, Farley knew that the Toronto Zoo had been trying
to get a pair of giant pandas to Canada for years.
When the time was right, he offered his assistance.
“Working in the exhibit was like working in a
prison,” laughed Farley. “We were in a time crunch to
complete the project, because the pandas were about
to be released from quarantine.”
Hero 3. Graham Birtles, supervisor of safety and
security, Toronto Zoo, armed with safety and security
knowledge, reins as the official safety provider for the
Giant Panda Exhibit.
Graham said the main goals for the security camera
system to making Er Shun and Da Mao’s exhibit state of
the art were to:
- Ensure the safety and security of the giant pandas
and zoo guests. “The zoo expects about 1.7 million
visitors [annually], so cameras are needed to help
keep an eye on everything,” said Graham.
- Research the giant pandas. Er Shun and Da Mao
should feel like stars, because they have paparazzi
(a zoo team) watching them all day, observing
what they do, what and how they eat, how they
react to visitors, etc. The cameras help make this
- Marketing. The zoo plans to use the webcam as a
marketing tool to get more bodies through their
gates by implementing a “Panda Cam.”
“The cameras are very useful when it comes to shift
changes,” said Graham. The cameras allow staff to
know where the pandas are when entering and exiting
the enclosures, increasing overall safety and security.
The 40 year-old Toronto Zoo used analog cameras
as part of their aging security system, but the arrival
of Er Shun and Da Mao prompted the zoo to upgrade
to IP cameras, which provided HD quality for
giant panda viewing.
A total of 19 cameras—6 PTZ,13 standalone—are
used in the Giant Panda Exhibit. “There is nowhere
the pandas can hide,” assured Graham.
“There is a video analytics option on the intelligent
cameras that enables object tracking and follows
the pandas around, especially in the indoor exhibits,”
said Graham. “On the menu, it has ‘track person’ or
‘track vehicle’ options. I wonder why it doesn’t have a
‘track panda’ option.”
Happily Ever After
Er Shun and Da Mao have settled into their new habitat
that features climbing structures, misters, a covered
viewing area, a cave and a pool. They are both eating a
lot of their favorite bamboo, the Aurea species.
“Da Mao likes to have his lunch and then nap on a
particular rock,” said Clark, who frequently watches
the giant pandas via the Pelco cameras.
Farley added, “It’s mesmerizing to watch them
chew on the bamboo [and] pull it apart while lying
on their back. They make it look so easy to chew
through, like a toothpick!”
While Da Mao loves participating in his training
sessions with the keepers, Er Shun is a bit shy.
“Da Mao is the cool rock star who plays it up for
the guests. The other day it was hot, so we brought
in a kiddie turtle swimming pool. Da Mao picked it
up and threw it across the exhibit,” laughed Graham.
When speaking with these three men, I felt the immense
camaraderie through the phone between Pelco
by Schneider Electric, the Toronto Zoo and Security
Technology Services. Their friendships pays tribute to
the security industry and reflects one instance where
concern for excellence translated to a safe and secure
habitat for Er Shun and Da Mao.
“The Toronto Zoo is proud and happy to partner
with Pelco by Schneider Electric. Their service
and support is top notch. I can call them anytime, 24
hours a day, and whoever answers the phone knows
the answer to my questions,” said Graham. “And to
Farley, we are thankful that he donated his time and
energy to this installation.”
This article originally appeared in the October 2013 issue of Security Today.