By Cara Sulieman
A PILOT trial of a webcam watching penguins at Edinburgh Zoo has been such a hit that it is to be made a permanent fixture.
It was set up in June to capture the Gentoo penguins nesting and bringing up their young and has been attracting 9000 visitors a month so far.
There was even a massive Twitter campaign to get it back up and running after technical hitches saw the camera go down briefly.
Bosses admit they never expected the scheme to be as popular as it has been and are now looking at rolling out the idea to other animal enclosures.
Maria McMahon, the web and e-marketing officer, said: “We had been looking at putting in a webcam next year, but we were given an opportunity to try it our earlier and we chose the penguin enclosure because it is the iconic animal of Edinburgh Zoo.
“The guys who set up the camera all said it was perfect, because the penguins are always lively, but we didn’t expect it to be as popular as it became.
“We had to take the camera offline for a day or so to move some power cables around as part of other work at the zoo, and we were getting emails from people telling us to turn it back on.
“There was even a campaign on Twitter demanding we get it up and running again.”
There has been a lot of action on the internet in the last three months, with viewers seeing the penguins fight over stones for their nests before settling down to incubate the egg.
And more recently the new chicks have been seen running around after their parents demanding food.
It’s not just the Scots who have been logging on to watch the residents – with hits coming from countries as far afield as America, Japan, Iran, Slovakia, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, and Guernsey.
Off the back of this success, the zoo is considering installing more cameras in other enclosures, probably starting with the monkeys in the Living Links centre.
Carol Ross, marketing and communications manager at the zoo, said: “It has been a great success. A lot of our visitors will go online before they come here, and I think this is actually helping increase visitors to the zoo.
“We are looking at what other enclosures we can use this in, although we have to be careful as a lot of zoos have webcams, and the problem they have is that for most of the time nothing is happening.
“We would hope to have another webcam up and running by the end of the year.”