December 6, 2013 § Leave a Comment
This week at Edinburgh Zoo, we received a new male bearded dragon called Zac. Zac has come to us as a rescue animal from the SSPCA and joins Diloris our resident bearded dragon in the presentations department.
In news from the Highland Wildlife Park, the new pedestrian walkway through the Park’s front reserve opened to visitors on St Andrew’s Day. The construction of the walkway means that people visiting the Park on foot now have easier access, as they would have previously needed to be driven by a staff member from the ticket kiosks to the visitor centre. The walkway features a 150 metre long raised platform that allows the resident kiang, yak and camels to pass freely from one side to the other as well as offering visitors brilliant views of the Cairngorms. This was the new yak bull, Voldemort’s, first encounter with the other animals. He was very curious and decided to have a minor stand-off with Peach the kiang stallion – the camels were completely oblivious.
Still up at the Park, on Monday the keepers threw a joint birthday party for polar bears Walker and Arktos, giving the boys icy treats filled with sardines and carrots as enrichment. The bears loved their presents, which had been attached to a rope and hung in one of the enclosure’s trees for them to find. Arktos turned six on St Andrew’s Day and Walker will turn five this Saturday. Since Arktos’ arrival last year, the bears have been firm friends and can often be seen playing together, dunking each other in the pond or just dozing in the sun.
In news from the vet team, Simon Girling, Head of Veterinary Services for RZSS, presented two lectures to veterinary surgeons and nurses at one of Europe’s largest veterinary conferences, the London Vet Show, on 21st-22nd November. He spoke about advances in avian medicine, anaesthesia and diagnostic imaging for the busy GP vet. Simon also recently acted as chief examiner for the European School of Veterinary Practitioner Studies certificate in exotic animal practice, a postgraduate specialist qualification in zoo, wildlife and exotic pet medicine for veterinary surgeons.
Finally, if you are looking for something fun and a little wild to do with the kids during the run up to Christmas, the Highland Wildlife Park will be holding Santa’s Reindeer Walks each Saturday and Sunday of December at 11:30am and 2:30pm. The walks are a unique opportunity to get up close to these magnificent creatures and learn more about them. For more information on this event, please visit the Park’s What’s On page. http://www.highlandwildlifepark.org.uk/events
“If the Earth was an apartment, we wouldn’t be getting our security deposit back.”
– Jim Shubert
November 29, 2013 § Leave a Comment
From the 19th to 21st November, RZSS hosted a dama gazelle meeting at Edinburgh Zoo that brought together experts from around the world to coordinate conservation action for the species.
The dama gazelle, indigenous to the Sahel region of North Africa, is currently listed as critically endangered on the IUCN redlist with number decline due to habitat degradation and hunting. There are currently an estimated 300 left in the wild. As a result of the meeting an updated status report will be produced for this species; including recommendations on how best to increase numbers in the wild and how to integrate this goal with captive breeding efforts.
At the Highland Wildlife Park the new walkway through the entrance reserve is completed and will be officially opened by Eddie Orbell (the previous Park Director) and his wife on St Andrews Day. We will also be offering 2 for 1 admission to the Park. On the same day there’ll also be events happening in the Park – please visit http://www.highlandwildlifepark.org.uk/events for further information.
Still in the Highlands, new animal fencing on its southern side has also been completed. This has allowed the animal team up there to give the yak herd access into that portion of the reserve and have them back on exhibit. The fencing on the northern side of the walkway is nearly finished, and then the yak, camels and will have use of the whole area via the two animal access points under the highest sections of the walkway.
Much further afield, the Pantanal Giant Armadillo team are delighted to have just returned from the field after capturing (and then released again) two adult male giant armadillos for monitoring purposes. Since June they had not captured a new individual, despite their almost constant presence in the field. Great news for the project, especially as the rainy season is just starting which makes field access difficult. They also welcomed a keeper from Minnesota Zoo, Mary Peterson, who worked with them for two weeks.
Finishing at Edinburgh Zoo, this week we welcomed a visit of 15 delegates from the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens. Amongst the delegates were people from different zoos in China, as well as from Chengdu and the giant panda centre. The group had been on a UK zoo tour, also taking in London, Bristol, Cotswolds and Dudley.
The group had many questions about the Zoo and our animals and their tour covered aspects from enclosure design and animal husbandry, to conservation and education.
They were delighted to see Tian Tian the giant panda during their visit, but the highlight for many of them was the behind the scenes opportunity to get close to Yabbra, one of our male koalas, during his weekly weighing session with keepers Lorna and Donald.
Our education team has continued their Beyond the Panda outreach programme, endorsed by the Scotland China Education Network. Now reaching beyond the mainland, one of our education team has just returned from the Shetland Islands where she visited five schools - Dunrossness, Sandwick, Cunningsburgh, Whiteness and Brae Primaries.
Beyond the Panda has now delivered 33 out of a total of 50 sessions booked by schools throughout Scotland and a number of schools are now working with Chinese teachers to learn more about China and Mandarin Chinese. That completes the sessions this year, but early next year our Discovery and Learning team will be off to Argyll and Bute in January and then Skye, Fort William and Fort Augustus in February.
“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you
Frank Lloyd Wright (1868-1959)”
November 22, 2013 § 1 Comment
I am excited to say that a picture a giant armadillo mother and its baby, taken as part of the Giant Armadillo Project, has been awarded as runner up in the BBC Wildlife Magazine Camera Trap 2013 new discoveries category. Congratulations to Dr Arnaud Desbiez, Regional Coordinator for Conservation and Research in Latin America for RZSS, and the rest of the Project team for this wonderful recognition! This is in fact the first EVER photograph captured of a baby giant armadillo. Another image of a giant armadillo taken with a remote camera trap was also commended in the animal behaviour category.
The Pantanal Giant Armadillo Project was established in 2010 and prior to this the species was almost entirely unstudied. Indeed, virtually nothing was known about the species’ reproduction before the series of camera-trap photos, including the award winning image, was captured. The winning camera trap images can be seen in the December issue of BBC Wildlife Magazine.
In other news, the RZSS Conservation team recently received an update from researcher Thomas Doherty–Bone, upon his return to the UK after a visiting the Amphibian Research Project in Cameroon last month. This project, which is supported by RZSS, focusses particularly on the Lake Oku clawed frog which is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN red list – though a lot of other amphibian species are also studied and protected. A lot of great work was discussed and carried out while Thomas was in Cameroon, from holding conservation action plan workshops to helping on the development and implementation of the scholarship programme in local schools.
Two conservation action plan workshops were held at Lake Oku, one with 30 delegates for Lake Oku summit grasslands area and another with 40 stakeholders for the shores of Lake Oku. Plans for the future of conservation in both these areas were discussed, issues that arose were access to these areas and a possible development on the shores. Action plans will be written up and it was unanimously agreed that all livestock should be removed from the forest surrounding the lake which is a step forward in protecting the area.
Work is also being done with local schools to promote environmental education. While Thomas was in Cameroon, the scholarship program “The Kilum-Ijim Young Scientist Award” was reviewed. This scheme approaches secondary schools to select the two best performing science students entering Form 2, who then have their tuition paid for the following academic year. Three schools were targeted, with a total of six pupils supported. The scheme is being continued for the 2013/14 academic year, with an additional six schools targeted, which will benefit a total of 18 pupils in the next year.
The field visit by the CRAUC coordinator has been a very successful endeavour, particularly for engaging with multiple stakeholders in the management of critical amphibian habitats. The production of conservation action plans is an important step, with the possibility that in the next five years, at least the Lake Oku Clawed Frog could be safe enough to have its IUCN assessment classification improved to a threat less than Critically Endangered. Additional work is needed to ensure this becomes a reality, as well as for the other threatened amphibians and their representative habitats.
Because we don’t think about future generations, they will never forget us.
November 15, 2013 § Leave a Comment
In news from Edinburgh Zoo, our koala joey is becoming increasingly active and is starting to be seen more and more. Often this is just a limb or a nose sticking out of the pouch, so visitors still have to be very patient to catch a glimpse! Our Visayan warty piglets have had their first health check and the keepers have sexed them as two boys and two girls, though names are still to be chosen. Finally, on Monday a new male king penguin arrived from Denmark. His name is Rainbow and he is settling into the group nicely. Edinburgh Zoo only houses a bachelor group of king penguins at the moment, as females are quite rare.
Up at the Highland Wildlife Park, keepers have been enjoying watching Kush, the red panda cub, learn to climb trees. Despite this being an everyday part of life for a red panda, Kush does seem rather worried about it all! Kush was born in early June this year and is the Park’s first red panda cub. He has become a firm favourite with keepers and visitors alike and can be seen near the visitor centre with his parents Kitty and Kevyn.
This week the Park also received a visit from Rhoda Grant, MSP and the Scottish Environment LINK Species Champion for the Scottish wildcat. During her visit, Rhoda met with Douglas Richardson, Head of Living Collections for the Park and steering group member for the Scottish Wildcat Conservation Action Group, to talk about the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s involvement in the recently launched Scottish Wildcat Conservation Action Plan. Rhoda also had the opportunity to meet the Park’s resident adult wildcats Betidh, Hamish and Zak, alongside three month old kittens Ness and Einich.
Yesterday, I attended Scottish Parliament to hear Colin Keir, MSP for Edinburgh Western open a Member’s debate that commended Edinburgh Zoo’s work over the past 100 years. I was delighted to hear several members of Parliament discuss the achievements of both Edinburgh Zoo and RZSS, as well as share their own personal stories of time spent at the Zoo. This year has certainly been an immense one for RZSS and over the next 100 years, we will continue to work towards our aim of connecting people with nature and safeguarding species from extinction.
Finally, a brief reminder that our carnivore keepers will be holding a Panda and Carnivore Talk on Thursday 28th November from 7:30pm. During the evening, the keepers will discuss all of the recent news within the carnivore section, as well as talk about their work with giant pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang. If you would like to attend this special event, booking is recommended. Tickets cost £5 for members and £7 for non-members. You can book by either calling 0131 314 0334 or emailing email@example.com.
“Destroying rainforest for economic gain is like burning a Renaissance painting to cook a meal.”
― Edward O. Wilson
November 13, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I have always said that if you want to see pandas at their most active, then come to the Zoo when it’s cold. In the last couple of weeks, as we all know, the weather has changed from the unusually mild autumn to the more traditionally bright, cold and windy conditions we would normally expect to have at this time of year. A bear species which is found in the mountain bamboo forests in three provinces in Western China, giant pandas are a cold climate adapted species with thick, dense rough fur, so our current weather is perfect for them.
However, it’s this fur and their thick skin beneath it which is proving just a little tricky for our keepers and vets to deal! We’re currently training both Tian Tian and Yang Guang for non-invasive medical checks.
This training involves the pandas sitting in their inside dens, presenting their forearm to the keepers through the bars and onto on a specially designed metal sleeve which the panda must grip in order to be given a food reward for taking the instruction from the keeper. The keepers voice or whistle acts as the bridge between behaviour and reward, and this is called positive reinforcement.
After this behaviour has been learnt, the next stage in the process is to shave part of their fur to expose the skin, thus, hopefully making it easier to see a vein. Eventually, we hope the pandas will allow our vets to insert a needle in their vein in order to get a sample of blood in case in the future a sample is needed to perform various medical tests. This is much less invasive than having to anaesthetise a panda to collect a blood sample.
Pandas are intelligent animals and both Tian Tian and Yang Guang were trained in the past by their keepers in China, so it’s been relatively straight forward for our keepers to retrain them. Tian Tian has been a fraction more easier than Yang Guang though!
The real surprise though has been just how tough their skin is and how tricky it is to find a vein.
We will post a video of the process on our YouTube channel soon, but here are some photos of the pandas undergoing the training for this behaviour. Of course this is not the only behaviour we have been working towards and we will show pictures of others in due course.
I am off to China this week, so will post some information and pictures from there of my trip.
November 8, 2013 § Leave a Comment
At Edinburgh Zoo we have had two exciting birth announcements this week. Pygmy hippos Ellen and Otto became proud parents of Adana, a new female calf who was born on Sunday 27th October. Adana, which means “her father’s daughter”, was weighed by keepers on Monday and came in at a healthy 10.5kg; she will continue to put on roughly 250 grams every day. Adult pygmy hippos weigh between 180kg and 275kg!
Mum Ellen was herself born at Edinburgh Zoo in 2005, named after yachtswoman Ellen McArthur, and this is her third female youngster born to dad Otto. Leishan was born in 2009 and Eve on New Year’s Eve in 2011. Native to West Africa, pygmy hippos are endangered through hunting and habitat loss. Edinburgh Zoo has successfully been part of the European Breeding Programme for this species for many years, with 18 offspring successfully reared here since the 1970s. Darren McGarry, the Head of Living Collections at the Zoo, also sits on the European Endangered Programme Committee.
We also celebrated the arrival of four Visayan warty piglets. The foursome was born to mum Mina and dad Ynigo on Tuesday, 29th October and are doing very well. Although they are tiny at the moment, the piglets will grow to weigh between 30kg and 40kg, depending on their sex. The keepers will wait until the piglets are a few weeks older and more independent from Mina before sexing and naming them.
Native to the Visayan Islands in the Philippines, the Visayan warty pig is Critically Endangered, and is now found in only two per cent of its original range. Edinburgh Zoo is part of the European Endangered Species breeding programme (EEP) for Visayan warty pigs and has successfully bred the species for several years. The long term aim of the Visayan warty pig conservation project is to reintroduce the species to the islands where they have become locally extinct.
In news from our veterinary department, Edinburgh Zoo has just received official approval to become a residency training centre for the European College of Zoological Medicine (Zoo Health Management). The Zoo is only the second place in the world to achieve this standard, which will allow us to take and train already qualified vets who wish to gain their specialist Diploma in Zoological Medicine (Zoo Health Management). Well done on this excellent achievement!
Up at the Highland Wildlife Park, snow has started to cap the surrounding Cairngorms and the occasional light flurry has been spotted on the live snow monkey cam, which can be watched here: http://www.highlandwildlifepark.org.uk/snow-monkey-webcam As winter is now upon us, both parks have changed to winter opening hours. The Highland Wildlife Park is open 10am until 4pm each day, whilst Edinburgh Zoo is open 9am until 4:30pm.
“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.” ― Mahatma Gandhi