We had been looking forward to going to Copenhagen Zoo for our end-of-March holiday and, when that got cancelled, we changed plans and booked a fresh holiday in the Cotswolds so we could visit the Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens. That was also thwarted by the COVID-19 pandemic and we weren’t going anywhere. Now, if you’ve just started a blog to go and review zoos then a countrywide lockdown is extremely unhelpful.
However, we must carry on and so I thought it would be useful to list out all the online zoo webcams I can and write a little about them. One thing I noticed doing this is how many penguin and meerkat cameras there are. I would love a camera into a tamarin exhibit or the elephant houses. Here are my two golden rules for a zoo webcam…
1. Quality Matters
If you are going to do something then do it well. For me the quality of the camera is so much more important than the content. The Port Lympne camera was the clearest shot by far. My second favourite camera (from Paignton Zoo) featured ducks and they certainly aren’t the most engaging of subjects. Again, what set this camera apart from others is that the picture quality was really clear and the colours were just like you’d see in real life.
There were a number of cameras with more interesting or unusual animals but, because the picture quality was ropey or the composition of the shot hadn’t been thought through, I just moved on.
2. Make sure the animal shows up
This should be a fairy obvious one… no point putting up a webcam of an empty room. In the cameras that I went through, about 30% of them had no-shows so I just clicked off. Even if the picture is great I’m not going to wait all day for a tiger to walk through a shot.
With technology getting better and better I would have thought that having a few webcams around an enclosure with some kind of motion sensor wouldn’t be too difficult. Or you could make sure that you get all of the enclosure in shot by picking a smaller enclosure like in a monkey house or an aviary. Port Lympne has someone moving the camera around Springwatch style to capture all the actions.
The above might sound obvious but I hope by writing it down I’ll be likely to remember it if I ever do achieve my dream of running a zoo (though by that time we’ll probably be looking at holograms!).
Before I go into a complete list here is my top 3:
- Port Lympne Cubcam – great quality camera on the lion pride.
- Paignton Zoo Flamingos – this is great quality and there is always something to look at
- Edinburgh Zoo Pandas – the camera isn’t great but the content makes up for it. Plus Edinburgh have 5 cameras to pick from so you are spoilt for choice
Edinburgh Zoo has five cameras covering off pandas, tigers, koala bears and two species of penguin. The panda cam is clearly the most highly watched as, when the country went into lockdown, it had so much bandwidth it crashed for a few days. The quality isn’t as good as the tigers but it is much easier to see a panda and they are very charismatic creatures. The big group penguin cam is also fun as you get to watch a whole lot of penguins interacting around the nest sites. The other three cameras don’t really do it for me… the tiger isn’t going to be on camera very often, the koala bear isn’t good quality and the rockhopper is a vertical camera with a not very pretty background.
Marwell Zoo has a flamingo cam. When I looked there were no flamingos but the video of the ground where they should be looked to be good quality.
Paignton Zoo has three webcams showing macaque, flamingos and meerkats. Right off the bat you notice the quality of these cameras is fantastic. The flamingo cam moves every 30 seconds to show different parts of the exhibit and every view has been well thought out. The macaque camera looks like it isn’t quite as well placed and I struggle to see how you’d get good shots even if the monkeys were out. The meerkat one is fine but not as good as that flamingo camera.
Dudley zoo has a penguin webcam and a tiger webcam. The sharpness on both is good but they both look a bit washed out in colour. Like Edinburgh the tigers aren’t going to be often visible but there is less natural shelter in the dudley exhibit which makes it more likely you’ll spot one.
I have to confess I hadn’t heard of folly farm and this blog wasn’t designed to cover off petting zoos however these guys do have lions and giraffes so they are not your standard petting zoo. On the webcam from they in theory have lions, giraffes, penguins and the barn. When I was watching the barn was the only one working and whilst I love a good goat, this doesn’t satisfy my zoo craving.
I opened up this meerkat camera and thought, WOW that is a good picture and a good set up with good colour and great clarity. In fact, I thought it was as good as the Paignton cams then I remembered that Newquay and Paignton are sister zoos… makes sense. Sadly no meerkats visible though whenever I’ve checked.
Cotswold Wildlife Park & Gardens
So this is where we were going to go and visit as it is the only dog friendly zoo in the UK. They’ve got webcams on meerkats and penguins but they re just a little zoomed out to really see any characters. Picture quality is good though and its really easy to see the penguins swimming in the pool.
Highland Wildlife Park
The good news is this isn’t a penguin or a meerkat camera like every other zoo… this is a Snow Monkey camera. Yes, that’s right, snow monkeys are a thing. Now the bad news is that they are no where to be seen when I’ve looked but kudos for trying something different.
These guy have a lion cam and its really good. In fact, the whole place just feels quality from the website to the price of on site accommodation. This gets a big thumbs up from me.
Another one of the Paignton & Newquay family and the quality is just as good for the penguin cam, even if the penguins were a bit distant.