Storybook Ending

China’s national treasure is a cute, playful bear

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 national treasure.

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 national treasure.

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.

The Journey

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 adapting comfortably.

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 possible.
  • 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.

The End

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.


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