Five critter cams to go dark at the National Zoo

Photo of a clouded leopard at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park.

The clouded leopard cam at the National Zoo is going dark June 1. (Image: Smithsonian's National Zoological Park)

The National Zoo is taking five of its older animal camera feeds offline June 1. The naked mole rat colony, the orangutan habitat, the clouded leopard, the fishing cat, and the Asian small-clawed otter will no longer be accessible to virtual visitors at the National Zoo's website.

The cams date back to September 1996. The ages of the camera hardware in use at the Zoo range from about seven to more than 12 years old. They run on the Windows Server 2003 operating system, which goes out of support in July.

The cams already are out of support where the Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox browsers are concerned. The video feed software uses the Netscape Plugin Application Programming Interface (NPAPI), which dates back to the early days of the Internet. It was first common architecture used to support the delivery of audio, video and other multimedia functionality into web browsers. In recent years, Google has taken the lead in putting the old NPAPI standard out of service. The older cams also won't work on the Apple iOS or Google Android smartphone and tablet operating systems.

The cams set for the scrap heap aren't among the most popular at the zoo, but still collectively generated about 1.1 million page views in 2014, according to a National Zoo spokesperson. (They don't have data on video streams, but page view info is a close proxy.) About 30 percent of all visits to the zoo site come over Internet Explorer, so most visitors don't have the opportunity to activate the streams.

It's hard to imagine why, in the cat-driven world of the Internet, the fishing cat is not more popular. According to the zoo website, they are a kind of natural fly-fisher. The cats "attract fish by lightly tapping the water's surface with a paw, mimicking insect movements ... then, they dive into the water to catch the fish." And yet, they managed only 178,060 page views for 2014.

By comparison, the super popular Panda Cam, spotlighting one of the most languorous beasts on the planet, generated more than 38 million page views for 2014. A lion cub cam added in July 2014 attracted about 300,000 visits for the calendar year, and an elephant cam that went online in May 2014 drew 613,000 visits. Those cams are all staying online.

The Zoo hopes to attract a sponsor or patron to underwrite new cams to stream animal video. The Ford Motor Company Fund backed an upgrade to the Panda Cam in 2013. A spokesperson told FCW that when resources become available, the zoo will look at possibly restoring some of the lost feeds, and adding video feeds in new locations, spotlighting new animals.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


  • FCW Perspectives
    human machine interface

    Your agency isn’t ready for AI

    To truly take advantage, government must retool both its data and its infrastructure.

  • Cybersecurity
    secure network (bluebay/

    Federal CISO floats potential for new supply chain regs

    The federal government's top IT security chief and canvassed industry for feedback on how to shape new rules of the road for federal acquisition and procurement.

  • People
    DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, shown here at her Nov. 8, 2017, confirmation hearing. DHS Photo by Jetta Disco

    DHS chief Nielsen resigns

    Kirstjen Nielsen, the first Homeland Security secretary with a background in cybersecurity, is being replaced on an acting basis by the Customs and Border Protection chief. Her last day is April 10.

Stay Connected


Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.