Launch - In Depth - March 2018


Extensive High-Def Camera Systems Help Secure Attractions

One of England’s largest zoos is now virtually as secure as a castle, thanks to the addition of high-definition (HD) cameras and wireless Internet Protocol (IP) systems.

The recent installation of 300 surveillance cameras, coupled with wireless data transfers at the Chester Zoo in Cheshire, England, demonstrates the safety, security, and communications advantages of a system that is now a much more practical option for attractions, especially with dramatic increases in HD cameras’ resolution quality.

With almost 2 million visitors per year, the Chester Zoo is one of the most visited attractions in the United Kingdom, housing 15,000 animals on 125 acres. Before 2017, the zoo had only an antiquated closed-circuit (CCTV) system. 

“The legacy CCTV system at Chester Zoo was very outdated and poorly maintained,” says Nigel Peers, senior consultant with NW Security Group, which installed the zoo’s new camera system. “At best, the analog units provided little image clarity and were not located for operational effectiveness.”

The opening of the 15-acre Islands section—a new £40 million area that debuted in 2015—and the zoo’s ambition to become a global-leading visitor attraction warranted a state-of-the-art, high-definition, IP-based camera system. Peers says the new arrangement allows the zoo to tighten perimeter security, improve health and safety monitoring, and support keepers in assuring the welfare of animals. The system also monitors the zoo’s parking lot to ensure the safety of guests and their vehicles and belongings. 

“A mixture of static and pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) units enable the 24-hour security team to conduct round-the-clock security surveillance, while at the same time provide animal teams with vital behavior and welfare video data in HD quality,” says Peers. The PTZ camera units can be rotated, allowing security staff to monitor the park in real time. NW Security replaced about 60 faulty CCTV cameras with new Axis-brand network cameras, then networked all the remaining CCTV cameras using Axis encoders. A total of 160 new Axis cameras were then installed and networked across the zoo. The camera network also features an integrated loudspeaker system. “The ability to link horn speakers and other IP audio technology to the network enables staff to directly interact with visitors and potential intruders alike,” Peers says. “Audio challenges can be issued to anybody with malicious intent, which can deter an attack on the zoo’s valuable assets and collection. Integrated audio also supports effective incident management communication.” 

Regarding animal management, the system addressed a specific problem for the zoo’s elephant team. Previously, the staff had to use radios to manage the opening and closing of the large gates that let the elephants in and out of the elephant house, leading to their habitat. The installation of several HD network cameras alongside the remote-control door system provides high-quality live views on both sides of the gates. 

The cameras also captured some lighter and more joyful moments, including the births of three baby elephants. The videos were shown live on the zoo’s website and saved so they can be shared again in the future.,