Articles & Case Studies

Lanes plays i-spy at the zoo

Posted: Monday 19th October 2009

The UK's largest independent drainage specialist had a very different task on its hands in Devon recently - spying on wild animals.

Instead of using its sophisticated CCTV equipment to check for sewage blockages, the Lanes for Drains' camera crew was called in to check on a mating pair of meerkats at Dartmoor Zoological Park.

The pair, Sue and Timon, had moved into their new enclosure at the end of May and settled down to the business of starting a family almost immediately. But an essential part of the meerkats' home is a network of tunnels built to mimic their natural environment, and the zoo staff needed to be able to see into the 12-metre underground system.

"With a potential pregnancy on the cards" explains head keeper Colin Northcott, "knowing what the meerkats are up to below ground is crucial. If Sue has decided to begin nesting in the tunnels, then we need to know that as soon as possible."

George Hyde, the zoo's Operations Manager, had the bright idea of calling in the drainage experts for help after he remembered seeing Lanes' pink liveried vans in the area.

"I thought that using specialist drainage inspection technology would allow us to look into the tunnels without distressing the meerkats," says George. "Lanes' local depot is very near the zoo, and its bright pink vehicles are hard to miss, so I rang and explained our predicament.

"Lanes could not have been more helpful in setting up the project, and the technical guys were very enthusiastic. Everyone was fascinated by what we were doing - the BBC even sent a local television crew to record the event!' adds George.

Ian Cameron, sales manager of Lanes' South West depot, explains how Lanes tackled the unusual inspection: "We have a whole range of advanced camera systems for various types of drains and situations but for the meerkats' tunnels we used the standard coiler inspection unit which is a mini-camera on the end of a cable. Once set up, we pushed it through the tunnels whilst an operator watched the relayed pictures on a screen.

"As well as being able to see it in real time, the zoo also has the footage on a DVD so that they can look at it again for technical information."

George says: "Though we didn't find nesting meerkats, we did discover flooding in one section of the tunnel. And, armed with all the technical information Lanes provided, we have been able to rectify that to make sure it won't happen again. It was definitely a worthwhile exercise."

Meanwhile, although the zoo will have to wait a while longer for its baby meerkats, the footage is going to be available on the Plymouth Herald's website. It seems that meerkats Sue and Timon are set to become the 'Brad and Angelina' of Dartmoor Zoological Park!

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