Monday, February 17, 2014

The Dropcam Adventure

On the evening of January 18th, all seemed calm in the world of Pacific Science Center’s naked mole rat colony. Some were happily munching away on their sweet potatoes and the rest were sleeping peacefully in their chambers.

By the next morning, there was a very different situation. The naked mole rats were roaming around in the outer enclosed area of their exhibit space. In the upper story of their exhibit, a security band was no longer securing a tube into its chamber. The mole rats had pushed the tube out of the chamber and climbed out.

Fortunately none of the fugitive mole rats was injured in the process. All the wandering animals received a thorough health check and were returned to their chamber space. The tube was re-secured. Other than Animal Care staff continuing to monitor the mole rat health, this would be the end of the story.

However with the advent of new technology and the far-reaching expanse of the Internet, we now have new ways to understand what is going on in our mole rat colony after hours. Thanks to our Naked Mole Rat Dropcam, we discovered that we have camera viewers around the world - in Finland and Germany to be exact. While most everyone in Seattle was fast asleep, our far away friends were just waking up to the after-hours antics of the naked mole rats. One German viewer wonderfully documented the naked mole rat expedition, noting the time, the number, and the behavior of individuals on their walk-about. Our observer also hypothesized where the breach might be located.

Readers may recall that this is not the first time our mole rats have escaped from the tube system within their enclosure. Each time, we take the information from the breach and try to prevent it from happening again. Now, the Dropcam gives us information that we couldn’t have before. We can go back and view the situation through stored camera footage and learn more about their behaviors. Previously, we could only see the aftermath. The earlier camera footage not only corroborates our viewer’s observations but also helps us solve escape problems going forward.

When trying to prevent the mole rats’ mischief, we look for their motivation to escape. We provide enrichment to entertain them. Part of their enrichment includes a dynamic system of chambers, particularly the second level, which makes for a bigger challenge for Animal Caretakers to secure. We secure chambers with rubber bands on the lids and non-slip mats underneath.

After this last escape, we worked with our exhibits team to refine the tube assembly. A routed groove allows a connection between the PVC joints so strong that even a human can’t break it.

Next, a wider base for our second level chambers should limit the tubes from being jostled loose. And as always, in the event that mole rats escape to the outer enclosure, they still have nowhere to go. That space is locked up tight with the same temperature and humidity as the chambers.

Besides giving us more information about mole rats’ nocturnal behaviors, this experience made us aware of the naked mole rat fans we have around the world. We absolutely loved hearing from our European viewers even if it took an unusual situation for them to share with us. In fact, we love hearing from all our mole rat fans. So please, check out both Naked Mole Rat Cam I and Cam II and share your stories with us. What have you seen our furless friends doing?


  1. Dear Pacific Science Center Team,

    We were glad to be of assistance to save the mole rats on the run that we have come to regard as friends :-) After observing them via Dropcam for quite a while now we start recognizing individual animals and discover new interesting behaviours almost every day! The molerat live-cam beats any German TV program anytime!

    All the best,
    Bea + Stefanie, Germany

  2. Dear PACSCI -

    we just love your NMR-colony so much! <3
    and we (the NMR-ambassadors to germany) are still
    soOo happy & glad,
    that none of the little dodgers got injured or hurt after all!

    even on "ordinary days" it is such a pleasure to observe the NMRs via dropcam I & II.
    lately i havn't had the opportunity to watch my beloved NMRs in seattle for 5 days - ...that was really horrible
    and i've been missing them sooo much; especially Gimpy (aka Hinkepups) and Muellchen (the tiniest one).

    so please go on broadcasting the NMR's adventures via dropcams for the next 70 years and take care all of You, dear PACSCI-staff.
    see (and hopefully hear) You again soon via the NMR-cams,
    hugs & kisses to the colony and our best regards to You

    Yours sincerely
    biggest fans & NMR-ambassadors to GER,

    Stefanie, Bea, Mumpitz, Molle & NMR-queen Ignazia

  3. This is neat. Did you see NPR's science friday also made a video about the mole rat?

  4. no new infos, but: very nice pics of the NMRs in that feature!
    thanks for the link, dear anonymus ;)