EDINBURGH Zoo staff have been donning panda suits and prowling the bears’ enclosure in a bizarre test of a new camera system.
“Panda cams” have been installed to automatically track the animals’ movements so millions of fans around the world can watch them online.
But to make sure the cameras are working properly, volunteers have put on panda suits and mimic the movements of the real occupants.
Excitement is mounting as the breeding season for the pair approaches but zoo bosses are insisting that the cameras will be switched off if things get steamy.
CCTV company IndigoVision, based in Edinburgh, donated the cameras to the zoo and helped set up the system.
Indigo Vision spokesman Paul Murphy explained: “We specialise in high-end, high-definition CCTV and video surveillance technology that senses a subject’s movement, focusing in on and tracking it.
“In most cases, this means tracking a person or vehicle; the programmes have been specially designed to pick up the movements of human beings or vehicles.
“To detect Tian Tian and Yan Guang, however, whose movements differ greatly from ours, the technology had to be recalibrated by men pretending to be pandas. So we had people dress up in panda suits to roam around the enclosure to allow our cameras to be optimised for their movements. Animals obviously move at completely different speeds and in different ways to human beings.”
Jon-Paul Orsi, Digital Manager for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, said “We are extremely excited to launch our all-new panda cams. The Zoo has been very lucky to work with IndigoVision.
“The intelligent tracking systems and new video cameras they have installed will provide not only our own visitors, but panda fans all over the world, with a high definition view of our pandas. Other than visiting in person, this is the next best way to follow the antics of Tian Tian and Yang Guang.
“The timing couldn’t be better either as there isn’t a more exciting time than breeding season to tune in to watch the panda cams.
“There will be plenty of seasonal behaviour to see; such as scent marketing and, in Yang Guang’s case, panda handstands and increased appetite for bamboo.
“Of course, like last year, when the time is right for the pandas to meet, it will be private and take place out of view of the panda cams.”
It emerged earlier this week that zoo bosses have switched the Yang Guang’s radio station of choice from Classic FM to the more relaxing, easy-listening sounds of Smooth Radio.
DJs are dedicating a daily song to the pandas, including Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On.