Marwell Zoo works with IBM to install thermal heating system for animals

African antelope known as nyala in their enclosure at Marwell
African antelope known as nyala in their enclosure at Marwell
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A SYSTEM using thermal imaging cameras to control indoor heating is keeping animals warm at Marwell.

A partnership between Marwell Zoo and IBM is using infrared sensors to record the temperature every second from across the bedding area of the shelter for nyala, a southern African antelope.

The information is fed back to a computer program which has been ‘trained’ to recognise whether the nyala are in the animal house and if the heating needs to be on.

It is hoped the technology will be able to reduce the amount of time the heaters are on during the colder months by up to 40 per cent, saving on the zoo’s energy bills and cutting carbon emissions.

The herd’s bedding area has spot heaters which are put on overnight in the autumn and spring, and are on all the time at the height of winter.

Duncan East, head of sustainability at Marwell, said: ‘Animals don’t sleep through the night like people do, they might doze for an hour and be active again, so there’s lots of time when they’re not under the heater.’

The next step will be to link up the program to the heater to switch it on and off automatically to test out the system fully.

Prof Andy Stanford-Clark, chief technology officer at IBM UK and Ireland, created the prototype and said it could have many applications, from switching on and off lights at offices, to an app to tell people where to head in the zoo depending on which animals are in the paddocks.