HERSHEY, Pa. (WHTM) — A visit to ZooAmerica North American Wildlife Park will get you face-to-face with dozens of birds, mammals and reptiles. Open 363 days a year, visitors can stroll through several acres of indoor and open-air exhibits to observe animal activity in every season.
But the increasing phenomenon of live streaming wildlife cameras is allowing people to experience animal activity around the clock without ever leaving their couch.
“I think it’s a great thing, actually,” says Theresa Wilson, a ZooAmerica education specialist. “I think that people have a different way to be able to connect to wildlife.”
While ZooAmerica doesn’t currently have any streaming web cameras monitoring its animal exhibits, Wilson says it could be considered in the future given the popularity of other cameras in the Midstate and beyond.
Current cameras causing a buzz among enthusiasts include the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Bald Eagle Cam, DEP’s Peregrine Falcon Cam and the Animal Adventure Park’s Giraffe Cam. A seasonal camera that monitors Pennsylvania’s wild elk population during the fall bugling season is currently offline.
On Tuesday, the peregrine falcon nesting on the side of the Rachel Carson Building in downtown Harrisburg laid its first egg of the season. A pair of falcons has been nesting at the site since 1997.
“I think it’s a nice complement to your walk through the zoo,” Wilson said, “but it doesn’t replace seeing animals in person. I think for thousands of years, people have been fascinated with animals, and we could just watch them and continue to be fascinated by their movements and behavior.”
While Wilson thinks web cam technology can lead to greater awareness of conservation efforts being put forth to protect species like eagles and elk, the zoo experience can lead to more personal bonds. She cites ZooAmerica programs such as a photography group that is given special access to animals beyond the enclosures, children’s zoo camps, and opportunities to feed species like bears, wolves and otters.
Wilson adds that many of the animals, including most of the birds of prey, are obtained through rescue and rehabilitation groups. Unlike the wild bald eagles in Hanover who are often seen filling their nest with fish and rodents, many of the animals that now call ZooAmerica home would not be able to collect their own food or otherwise survive in the wild. For instance, one of the zoo’s eagles has a disabled wing, and two of its black bears years ago were kept illegally as pets in someone’s basement.
“Many of them have incredible stories that people can learn and then appreciate them even more,” Wilson said.Get breaking news, weather and traffic on the go. Download our News App and our Weather App for your phone and tablet.