Chief Executive’s Blog

July 3, 2012 § Leave a comment


Celebrations were in full swing at the Highland Wildlife Park last week as it turned the big four-o.

Our present day staff were joined by some faces from HWP’s history, including one of the founders Neil McPherson, George Rafferty the park’s original vet and Eddie Orbell who was instrumental in developing HWP during the early years. Walker our polar bear costume character was out and about meeting and greeting visitors and an exhibition featuring HWP over the last 40 years – created from memories, images, cuttings and old posters and leaflets – was well received.

A welcome note to our celebrations was also to be told that Trip Advisor has awarded HWP a certificate of excellence for regularly receiving top ratings from our visitors; a fantastic accolade for us.

At Edinburgh Zoo, presentations keeper Ross Poulter has been working on developing aspen hoverfly habitats. Aspen hoverflies are endangered and are one of Britain’s rarest species of hoverfly, as they have several specific habitat requirements. They can only lay their eggs in fallen aspen trees that have been decomposing for around two years, making the sap the ideal place for their larvae. Truly interesting insects!

Last week also saw the launch of a special panda edition of one of Scotland’s much-loved comics – The Beano! Edinburgh Zoo was delighted to be approached by The Beano for our pandas to be immortalised in this way. We hope that panda and The Beano fans alike will enjoy the special edition that sees Dennis the Menace and his trusty sidekick Gnasher visit the Zoo, causing general madness and mayhem.

The reputation of our staff continues to develop and Simon Girling, head vet for the RZSS, has been appointed European veterinary specialist in zoological medicine, a great testament to his veterinary skills.

The WildGenes team was featured in The Scotsman recently for their work on DNA profiling. Using and developing forensic techniques, the team has been helping to crack down on the illegal trade of animals. Dr Rob Ogden and Dr Ross McEwing have spearheaded the Association of Southeast Asian Nations – Wildlife Enforcement Network project, which aims to help countries in Southeast Asia deal with the illegal trafficking of animals. Currently the team is busy organising a two day conference in Bangkok, which will look at the work they have carried out so far and what this has helped achieve.

Water Vole by Gordon Jack

The BIAZA Native Species conference will shortly take place from 10th to 12th July in Balloch and we are excited to report that attendees will visit the site of the Scottish Beaver Trial in Argyll and the Water Vole Project in the Trossachs. The water vole project started back in 2008 and was the planned reintroduction of a population of water voles back into Scottish waters. Now in its fourth year, the project has been extremely successful and has seen the return of water voles to Loch Ard near Aberfoyle, Stirling where historically they once would have been found.

The Summer School at Edinburgh Zoo began on Monday 2nd July.  Always booked up months in advance as it’s so popular, Summer School runs for the next four weeks and the theme this year is ‘Amazing Asia’.  Approximately 100 children between 6 and 13 years old will come along to learn all about animals and conservation each week.  Preparations are also nearly complete for the annual Science Summer School at the Highland Wildlife Park starting on Monday 9th July for two weeks.

Best wishes,

Hugh Roberts

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