May 24, 2013 § Leave a Comment
At the Highland Wildlife Park one of the female macaques, Angara, gave birth last week and both mother and baby are well. Angara is the dominant female in the macaque troop and this is her second baby in the same number of years. The female capercaillie has laid 10 eggs so far and the Satyr tragopan has laid three.
Four female water voles also arrived in our northerly park and have been divided into breeding pairs with the males. The offspring will be released into the wild at the end of the summer as part of the Trossachs Water Vole Project. Population segmentation and the need to diversify genes means that wild caught water voles from various locations around Scotland are brought to the Highland Wildlife Park; the adults and offspring are then released in the Trossachs at the end of the summer. The Highland Wildlife Park has shown great success in creating and caring for breeding pairs.
Our Discovery and Learning team are entering their busiest time of the year. As some of you may be aware, this is the peak time for school visits to the Zoo and Park. In May and June we have 10,000 pupils being taught at the Zoo and circa. 2,000 at the Park. Meanwhile the D&L team are also preparing for the six weeks of summer schools in July and August, which are fully booked already. On Saturday 18th May, Jasper Hughes, our HWP Education Officer, represented the Society at the public ‘Celebrating Nature’ 10 years of Cairngorms National Park event in Aviemore and Stephen Woollard, our Head of Discovery & Learning, is on the UK Government Zoos Expert Committee which meets in London this week.
In our bird box cam, in celebration of Year of Natural Scotland, the first blue tit eggs have started to hatch. Amazing viewing, you can actually watch the action live! This bird box is just one of many around Edinburgh Zoo to encourage our native birds and for use in our public education work http://www.edinburghzoo.org.uk/birdbox.html
As part of our focus on native species, we are also asking visitors to report which species they see entering our various bird boxes across the site during their visit. If you make a sighting, please make a note of it at reception on your way out or e-mail email@example.com
If I may, I would like to tell you about the Antarctic Ocean Alliance who are currently campaigning for the protection of over 40% of the Southern Ocean, as they are home to almost 10,000 unique and diverse species – including penguins, Weddell seals, albatross and Antarctic toothfish. This links in with our conservation support for penguins, including the Falkland Islands. An online petition showing support for this campaign can be found here: http://antarcticocean.org/
May 23, 2013 § Leave a Comment
To help us celebrate the ‘Year of Natural Scotland’ we have set up a bird box camera alongside our popular zoo webcams.
However with the cold weather of March and the slow start to spring, you may have noticed that things are a little late this year with leaves on trees only just starting to open in the last few weeks and flowers that would normally have bloomed and died by now, still in full swing. The lateness of spring is also reflected in our garden birds with many birds nesting late this year such as the blue tits in out nest box webcam. The birds are around 2 weeks behind last year with the first egg of 2013 laid on the 3rd of May. The clutch now stands at 7 and the female (who carries out all the incubation) has been sitting tight for over a week. With the average incubation of 14 days the first chick should hatch by the 24th of May. At the moment the female can be seen leaving the nest for a few minutes every hour or so to feed but once the chick’s hatch both parents should be seen entering and exiting the box with plenty of caterpillars for the hungry brood.
Last year the long period of wet weather meant that the adults found it hard to forage for enough food and unfortunately the nest failed.
Hopefully this year we’ll have a spell of dry warm weather and the adults can bring in the 700 caterpillars a day it takes to feed the whole brood.
You can follow our blue tits live at http://www.edinburghzoo.org.uk/birdbox.html
May 20, 2013 § Leave a Comment
On Saturday 4 May, Gizmo, Edinburgh Zoo’s female red-bellied lemur, gave birth to her first baby. Despite only being two weeks old, this small, fluffy bundle has been seen by some of our visitors.
For the first five weeks of its life, this little pup will be carried on the backs of both parents. After that dad takes over the transporting responsibility, though by this stage the baby will be strong enough to start moving around on its own and exploring its surroundings.
Male red-bellied lemurs are a solid brown-red whereas females have a white belly. This difference in appearance is known as sexual dimorphism and will allow keepers to establish the baby’s gender once it is old enough in a few months’ time.
Mum, Gizmo was born at Linton Zoo in April 2009 and was hand-reared by keepers when her mother rejected her. She was reintroduced to her family once old enough and they came to Edinburgh Zoo in November 2009. Despite her own difficulties as an infant, she is proving to be an excellent mother, which keepers think she picked up by watching her mother rear her brothers. She has also been fiercely protective of her mate, Bart, since he arrived at the Zoo in June 2012 from Jardin Zoologique Tropical in France.
Native to Madagascar, red-bellied lemurs are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, with the species primarily threatened by both habitat loss and hunting and are considered to be facing a high risk of extinction in the wild. Breeding programmes, such as the one Edinburgh Zoo is part of, are crucial for the conservation of red-bellied lemurs.
May 17, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Well we have exciting news from Penguins Rock, as the first gentoo penguins of 2013 have been born. We now have five chicks hatched in the enclosure. Particularly special, they are the first to be born in Edinburgh Zoo’s centenary year and also in the newly revamped enclosure. The first was born last Sunday and all chicks are doing well so far and we expect more to be born over the next few weeks.
At Edinburgh Zoo three nyala males from the camel house left last week and the young male Charlie was moved down from African Plains to join the remaining resident male Akram. This enclosure is used as a bachelor holding area when the young males reach the age when they need to leave the main herd. Also, now that the gentoo penguins that remained at Edinburgh Zoo during the redevelopment are all back in Penguins Rock, the rock hyraxes have reclaimed Barbary rock and three infants were born to Marguerite at the end of last week. Rock hyrax infants are born with their eyes open and are mobile straight away, so you can see them out and about on the rock and we expect more youngsters to be born soon. When fully grown rock hyraxes are about the same size as a domestic cat or large rabbit and are the closest living relative of the elephant.
As Wednesday 22nd is International Biodiversity Day, it seems appropriate to reference that RZSS is committed to an overall biodiversity plan. Edinburgh Zoo in particular is focused on increasing our already extensive horticultural native species collection and, beginning this year, started to conduct a stocktake of native plants within our grounds. Over the next few weeks we will take delivery of over 3,700 plants which will be used in various animal enclosures across the Zoo, including pandas, koalas and wildcats. In addition, Lothian Buses has donated 800 hazel saplings (Corlyus avellana). The native trees have been planted within the Zoo’s grounds and is another arm to us increasing our plant diversity; some will be allowed to mature into trees and the others will be used as coppicing material to be fed to our animal collection. The saplings used for fodder will be left to grow for between five to seven years, before being fed to our living animal collection including the Zoo’s rhinoceroses, banteng, goral and howler monkeys.
Onto events, there are only a few hundred tickets left for the first ever Zoo Nights on Friday 24th May, so I’d recommend moving quickly if you want to secure a ticket. The Zoo will be transformed for the night, with entertainment with a difference across the Park. The hub of the event is the Zoo’s lawn which will turn into an afterhours beer garden, with street food and a bar; then there’s Jungle Café that will house a silent disco; the Mansion House will boast a Pimms bar; the Budongo Trail – home to our chimpanzees – will become a vintage cocktail tea party; the Big Griller and Sky Trail area will be home to street performers and artists – including comedians, acrobats and jugglers; and finally, the penguin decking area will become a champagne sushi bar. There will also be animal handling and animal talks during the evening.
May 9, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Last week Romain Pizzi, one of the RZSS Veterinary Surgeons, attended the annual Association of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland conference, the main human surgeon’s conference in the UK. Our two veterinarians perform endoscopic surgery on our animals and attending this human focused conference allows them to pick up the latest developments in endoscopic techniques and then transfer them to animals.
Arnaud Desbiez, the RZSS Regional Co-ordinator for Latin America based in Brazil, has just returned from two amazing weeks out in the field and tells me there have been some exciting project developments. There have been two giant armadillo trappings (one re-capture and one of a new individual) and three southern naked tail armadillo trappings (one recapture and two new animals). Excellent news when so little is known about these elusive species! The team has also just purchased some new external GPS transmitters that have been specially made for the project’s needs and the potential data they could generate is thrilling. The GPS transmitter’s batteries last 100 days and are placed at the edge of the amour, however armadillos do have a habit of walking through forested areas and the transmitters can become dislodged. We have to wait and see what happens and what is discovered, so I hope to have more news in two or three months about results of the GPS tags.
Dr Helen Senn, Research Scientist for RZSS, has just been in Agadir, Morocco at the 13th Annual Sahelo-Saharan Interest Group (SSIG) meeting. It was attended by people who are involved in conservation in arid land species and ecosystems. Helen was presenting her genetic research on scimitar–horned oryx, Arabian oryx, addax and dama gazelle, including results from surveying a number of populations in captivity as well as some of the last remaining individuals of addax and dama gazelle in the wild. The data was generated with the intention of gathering genetic information necessary for current management and future reintroduction efforts.
Dr Rob Ogden, Head of Conservation Science for RZSS, visited King Khalid Wildlife Research Centre (KKWRC) outside Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. The purpose of the trip was to help the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) to evaluate the conservation genetics research facility at the centre. KKWRC is co-managed by ZSL and the Saudi Wildlife Authority and maintains populations of many endangered Arabian species.
I mentioned at the end of last month that we have a new bird box cam on Edinburgh Zoo’s website which is part of a larger programme of 40 nest boxes placed around the site. The blue tits in the nest box have just had three eggs. Blue tits actually lay once a day and only start incubating when they have a full clutch, which can be up to 16 eggs, but more likely seven to nine. Last year our first chicks hatched on 5th May, but due to the slow start to spring we think we are around two weeks behind this year
At Edinburgh Zoo this Sunday 12th May we will have some very special visitors.
Have you ever wondered what the penguin parade looks like from a penguin’s perspective? Well John Downer Productions, the team that created the renowned BBC program Spy in the Huddle, is coming to film our penguins in Penguins Rock – so we might just be able to find out. Full-sized rockhopper cams and egg cams will be deployed into Penguins Rock and the live footage will be streamed into the onsite penguin hut, allowing visitors to get a penguin-eye-view of the Zoo. This event is free with zoo admission. Please visit http://www.edinburghzoo.org.uk/whatson/events_articles/event_246.html to get full timings for events across the day.
Onto other events, we have a Hoofstock Walkabout on Thursday 16th May from 7.30pm to 9pm. Our hoofstock keepers will take you on a guided evening tour of the various hoofstock animals around the park. You will be introduced to many of the animals in their care as well as finding out about the latest goings on within the section. Tickets cost £5 for members and £7 for non-members; to book please call 0131 314 0379.
Finally, there have been more animal births at both of our Parks. Only this morning three rock hyrax young were born and another female is also due to give birth shortly at Edinburgh Zoo – so in a few weeks you should be able to spot them out and about on the rocks. Our gentoo penguins at the Zoo have also laid 42 eggs – you can keep up-to-date by visiting our new egg and chick counter on the Penguin Cam http://www.edinburghzoo.org.uk/EZPenguinCam.html
An elk calf was also born last night at the Highland Wildlife Park, our female capercaillie has laid four eggs and the snowy owl and the great grey owl as both sitting tight on their nests – so watch this space! The wolverine now have full access to their new enclosure and are using every bit of it, including climbing the trees.
April 26, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Firstly I would like to commend the efforts of RZSS staff as well as experts from around the world during panda breeding season. Tian Tian, our female panda ovulated on Saturday and while her 36 hour breeding window showed she wanted to mate, her behaviour suggested she would not be responsive to our male panda, Yang Guang. Putting them together potentially posed risk of injury. In the wild this would not be a problem as she would find and mate with multiple partners during this short time. In the Zoo however, this means we used artificial insemination, the recommended method by the Chinese. This was ground-breaking science taking place for the first time in the UK. We now must all step back and wait until July or August to find out if Tian Tian is pregnant, but in the meantime more information about Edinburgh Zoo’s 2013 panda breeding season can be found here http://www.rzss.org.uk/media-centre/press-releases.
Also Last Saturday Edinburgh Zoo participated in Citrus Saturday in which two teams of schoolchildren setting up lemonade stands within the Zoo and competed to sell the most lemonade on the day. Each team was responsible for creating their own brand, recipe and marketing materials and is designed to encourage team building skills, confidence and entrepreneurial skills.
We have quite a few events happening across both Edinburgh Zoo and Highland Wildlife Park I would like to share with you:
Next Tuesday, 30th April, I will be giving a talk at the Royal Society of Edinburgh titled ‘From Gannets to Pandas – 100 Years of Progress at Edinburgh Zoo’. During the evening I will reflect on future challenges and diverse activities of zoos as they conduct scientific field programmes and education outreach in addition to breeding endangered species – and running major visitor attractions. In a world that is increasingly crowded, warming and damaged, the role of zoos is even more relevant as ’refugee camps’ and as centres for environmental awareness. This event is free, with tickets available to book online at www.rse.org.uk.
We are proud to be hosting two Dreamnight events in June – one at Edinburgh Zoo on Friday 7th June from 6pm – 9pm and one at the Highland Wildlife Park on Friday 21st June from 6pm – 8:30pm. Dreamnight is an event to give disadvantaged and terminally ill children and their families an opportunity to visit the Park and enjoy a free evening specially arranged for them. Staff have generously volunteered their time, and the evening will consist of animal talk/feeds, children’s entertainment, raffles and prizes, and the event will conclude with a barbecue on the patio for everyone.
Our first Zoo Nights event is only four weeks away now. On Friday 24th May why not come to the Zoo for a cocktail night with a difference? Visit your favourite animals to see how they act after dark and enjoy the array of entertainment on offer including a silent disco, street performers, face painting, champagne and tapas. For more information and to purchase tickets visit http://www.edinburghzoo.org.uk/whatson/zoonights.html
In animal news, we now have a bird box webcam live on our website, which is currently home to a wild blue tit. At the moment she is building her nest, so is often out and about collecting materials but will soon be laying and incubating her eggs. This bird box is part of a larger programme of nest boxes with 40 now placed around the zoo. We’re asking visitors to look out for these boxes around the park and if they see a bird entering a box to let us know (they all have clear numbers on them). The bird box cam can be viewed here: http://www.edinburghzoo.org.uk/birdbox.html
Moving onto the Highland Wildlife Park the male white lipped deer finally dropped his antlers on Tuesday after being the last stag standing for a number of weeks. The Mishmi takin calf has had its cast removed and his progress will be monitored closely. As we are approaching summer the Park’s breeding period is almost upon us and after last year’s bumper number of births we are hoping for even more this year. The wolverines will be moving up to their new enclosure on Tuesday though it will be some settling in time before they are on view to the public.