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Micke Grove Zoo begins installation of alarm

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Posted: Thursday, August 31, 2000 10:00 pm

After the kidnapping of Wickie and Victor-Renee, Micke Grove Zoo's cotton-topped tamarins, supporters pitched in to purchase a security system. Installation of the specialized high-tech equipment began Thursday morning.

Designing an alarm system for the zoo presented challenges not usually encountered. The forest-like setting of the zoo grounds ruled out wireless systems. However, operating on the line of sight principle was not practical since the heavy foliage would block individual components from communicating with each other. Faced with these obstacles, Bay Alarm and Philips CCTV collaborated to develop a specialized system.

"We incorporated technology currently used by the San Diego Zoo to keep an eye on its tigers," said Skip Lang, sales manager for Bay Alarm.

The Micke Grove Zoo system incorporates a seldom used approach - infrared illuminators which allows cameras to record every nocturnal event. But monitoring the nighttime activities of unwanted visitors isn't cheap. The illuminators cost $1,500 each and additionally there is a $500 bulb that must be changed every two or three years.

The system must also be inconspicuous.

"We want to provide complete security, while protecting the aesthetic qualities of the grounds," said Carlos Carrasquel, customer service technician for Bay Alarm. Most of the system will be out of sight, but capable of activating both silent and audible alarms.

"Although this is a remarkably safe setting because of the location, the theft of even one endangered species is too many," said Ken Nieland, zoo manager. The only other theft at the zoo was during the early 1980s when a couple of cockatoos were nabbed. Due in part to the popularity of the "Baretta" TV series, a rash of cockatoo thefts swept the country during those years.

Sometime during the night of May 11, an unknown number of thieves broke into the zoo and stole the two tamarins. Fortunately, William Pugh of Stockton discovered them abandoned in his backyard the next day. They were found locked in a cat carrier, dehydrated and hungry.

When Pugh handed over the monkeys, he also returned the $250 reward offered by the Micke Grove Zoological Society. He then added his own check for $250.

Sharon Maas, a board member of the society, immediately shifted her focus from raising reward money to funding a security system. "With all the fundraising we were doing for zoo improvements, it seemed logical we take steps to protect what we had," Maas said.

The monkeys were actually stolen the night of a fund-raising event.

Although the society raised over $12,000, it still fell far below the system's selling price. However, Bay Alarm came to the rescue with almost $14,000 in contributed equipment and services.

Other contributors included Acordia of California Insurance Services, CWR Industries, Farmers & Merchants Bank, Hauser & Mouzes, Lodi Iron Works, Vino Farms and Lakewood Drugs.

Personal contributions were received from Claude E. Brown, Paul F. Burkner, Dr. and Mrs. F.W. Kullenberg, Sharon Lee Mass, Connie E. Reynolds, Gersh and Judy L. Rosen, Mr. and Mrs. Nick Spanos Jr., Michael H. Schmierer, D.D.S. and Dorsey R. Meyer Sr.

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