From Snooty the manatee to April the giraffe, Animal webcams still thrill millions

By Roy De Jesus, Interactive Reporter
Last Updated: Wednesday, March 01, 2017, 10:02 PM EST

Live animal webcams are ever more popular and non-profits are leveraging their popularity to help educate the masses.

The current cam-craze began with the DCEaglecam.org in Washington D.C.

The newest webcam is for an osprey in St. Petersburg, Florida.

The employees at the 62 Avenue St. Pete branch of Achieva Credit Union named the popular shorebirds Jack and Diane. Their previous nest was sitting atop a bank sign low to the ground and at the corner of a large intersection.

It was very dangerous for the birds. They were recently moved with help of the Audubon Society.

Diane, a mom-to-be, is now caring for the eggs, and they could hatch soon.

Sounds familiar right?

Last week, the nation went crazy for a giraffe cam in New York. April the giraffe is still waiting to give birth to a baby.

At its peak, the cam had about 30 million people watching online. It's the images that everyone wants to see online. (At this writing, the feed is offline)

You can find others just like the eagle/giraffe/osprey cams right here in Florida.

The Save the Manatee Club has two web cams at Blue Springs State Park just northwest of Orlando. Its co-founders are former Governor Bob Graham and famous singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffet.

They had about 53,000 unique viewers in 2016 from as far away as Australia. The group's executive director Patrick Rose said it's not just about the page views. The web cams are a great vehicle for education and research.

"They'll (viewers) also see that a vast majority of manatees have scars on them from the propeller injuries and hits that they've encountered,” explained Rose. “So it's something they see that they wonder what's that about and then they learn more."

In Tampa, Big Cat Rescue gets millions of hits on multiple webcams.

Some are powered by Explore.org, which hosts dozens of other animal cams across the country and beyond.

Altogether, Big Cat Rescue has racked up more than 13.8 million page views.

Another cam in Tampa Bay is the Snooty cam. Snooty the manatee received about 64,000 page views last year. Views peak on his birthday.

A new web cam just came live in the last five days in St. Augustine. You can watch the alligators at Alligator Farm and at night time they turn the camera on the roseate spoonbills which are winter nesting.

One of the most popular live animal webcams in Florida is the Winter cam at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

CMA Director David Yates said people can't stay away from them and they're easier than ever to set up.

"If somebody's there watching you live, do what you do, that takes it to a whole other level from the engagement perspective,” said Yates.  “So for us and any other non-profit or any organization whether you're us, Coke or Apple...show people what you do and it's not that expensive."

Yates said you can get started for as low as $100.

The Winter cam launched with one unit in 2010 before the release of the first Dolphin Tale movie. Now they have nine web cams that have garnered more than 51 million views in the last three years.

Yates advises other non-profits to get engaged through technology.

"Find the most compelling part of you work, whatever that is and show it,” said Yates. “If you're helping kids, if you're helping animals, if you're out there cleaning beaches, show people and get them there live."

When did the cam craze all begin?

According to one website which claims to be the first to stream animals, it was in 1994 with a fish tank inside the offices of a young web company called Netscape.