Going Wild about Scotland through April

May 28, 2015 § Leave a comment

The Wild about Scotland team came up against four seasons worth of weather to deliver ‘Beaver/Wildcat’ and ‘Mini-beast’ lessons as well as public ‘drop-ins’ this month. The bus stayed close to the Central Belt for the most part but did venture through the Borders and also up to Aberdeenshire.

PublicDropInSession_April2015As it was the Easter holidays for two weeks of the month, the team were able to open up to the public for what they call ‘drop-ins’. This allows them to interact with hundreds of people a day highlighting the partnership between Clydesdale Bank and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), as well as talking about the work carried out by RZSS across the world. Although the bus is designed to host school groups it is easily adapted into an exhibition space to promote the Scottish Beaver Trial, Scottish wildcat conservation, marine pollution, deer management, and the importance of mini-beasts (both terrestrial and freshwater) and general native species adaptations.

Collage_April2015The bus spent ten separate days this month open to the public at various locations. Highlights included three days at the Edinburgh International Science Festival, at both the City Art Centre and Summerhall, and visiting a very busy Glasgow Botanics for some pond dipping in the sunshine. Scottish Wildlife Trust were kind enough to host us again, this time at two of their reserves; Falls of Clyde at New Lanark and Jupiter Urban Wildlife Centre in Grangemouth. All in all we have had a fantastic month with 1,826 people visiting us on the bus at these venues. If you have an event you would like us to take part in then please fill out an enquiry form at www.rzss.org.uk/wildaboutscotland.

Back to the lessons; and as spring is in full bloom (not that you would know it some days this month, when we had to shelter from snow and hail) we are finding lots of interesting specimens on our mini-beast hunts. We have found everything from ant nests and beetle larvae to woodlice and spiderlings and as we get closer to summer it will only get better and better.

Bus driver DaveFrom the driver’s seat

Each month our ‘Wild about Scotland’ bus driver David gives you a wee insight into what it’s like to drive our double decker the length and breadth of Scotland. This month we gained a new addition to the team, a second bus driver called Alan!

Having been the sole driver of the Wild about Scotland bus since the project began, it was with excitement and apprehension that I handed over the keys to our new recruit Alan Currie. Alan has driven buses through Fife and on tours around Scotland for a mere 35 years! Before letting him loose with our bus I gave him a couple of days of ‘expert’ tuition! It really is a unique driving experience – taking a double decker on routes no service bus would go. Planning your own route to avoid overhanging trees and low bridges and manoeuvring through school gates designed for vehicles from by-gone eras. In addition there are also the extra functions and upkeep of an exhibition vehicle to him us all busy. In his first week Alan had some fantastic venues- driving through the middle of Glasgow Botanics and reversing along the entire Main Street in New Lanark Village, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I can’t wait to tackle the windy roads of Mull and Skye next month!

Red-tailed-bumblebee

Red-tailed-bumblebee

Mini-beast of the Month’: Red tailed bumblebee
This bee pictured, was found at Jupiter Urban Wildlife Centre, Grangemouth.

Queen bumblebees are currently setting up for the summer looking for places to nest. You’ll see bumblebees nesting in dark and dry places, sometimes underground or in thick grass.

BrodieKnowsBest#Brodie knows best

Each month Brodie the bus mascot answers your questions about science and nature.

Q. What do I do if I find a baby bird on the ground?

A. Spring is an amazing time of year with many animals laying eggs or giving birth to young. Something you might see are young chicks looking abandoned or lost. It is very tempting to pick up these babies and take them to the vet or SSPCA shelter, but really they should be left alone. During this time young birds are leaving their nests to explore for the first time, or fledging, and the parents are rarely far away. If you see any birds looking this way it is best to leave them alone as picking them up could do more harm than good. If the bird is clearly in danger, i.e. on a path or busy road then perhaps move it only a few feet to safety into the undergrowth and the parent bird will soon find it by its chirping.

Submit your questions for next month on Twitter @WildaboutScot using #Brodieknowsbest

Top teacher comments and tweets

“Super experience for all children” – Newcastleton Primary School

“Link to previous visit. Strong links with Eco schools” – Pitfour Primary School

“Our topic is biodiversity so this fit in PERFECTLY!” – Fyvie Primary School

“Children were engaged and motivated throughout…They were definitely extending their knowledge and thinking about topical issues” – Crombie Primary School

“The information and guidance was appropriate and positive/encouraging” – Crombie Primary School

“The activities were very hands on and children were learning lots without realising” – Logie Durno School

“Linked in with content covered in both maths and science lessons” – Mosshead Primary School

“Fitted in well with our rights respecting schools/global citizenship work” – Oxgang Primary School

Next month – May

Next month we will be on our travels once more as we head to Kintyre and Mull in Argyll, Highlands, and North Lanarkshire. You’ll also be able to see us at The Scottish Seabird Centre’s Puffin Fest in North Berwick on the 22nd as well as Scotland’s Big Nature Festival in Musselburgh on 23rd and 24th.

For more information about the Wild about Scotland Project and to see when the bus is next in your area, visit our website at www.rzss.org.uk/wildaboutscotland, follow us on twitter @WildaboutScot, or like our Facebook page.

Chief Executive’s Blog

May 26, 2015 § Leave a comment

Hello,

Our Giant Armadillo Conservation Project team in the Pantanal has recently managed to find Alex, the young giant armadillo which they have been tracking for nearly two years. Last week, veterinarian Camila Luba, who specialises in reproduction, caught up with Alex to examine him and take samples to determine whether he has reached sexual maturity.

This is vital information and the samples taken from the young armadillo have determined that he is still an immature male which, at the age of nearly two years, is quite surprising. Whilst there has been little research done on the Xenartha species (group of placental mammals found only in the Americas, such as anteater, tree sloths and armadillos), it has been discovered that young giant anteaters are already sexually mature by the age of two. This data continues to confirm the long life cycle of giant armadillos and we are now discovering how long it takes for individuals to even reach sexual maturity.

Dr Arnaud Desbiez, RZSS Latin America Coordinator and lead on the Giant Armadillo Conservation Project, will be in Buenos Aires this week to help facilitate at the ALPZA-CBSG Strategic Planning Workshop for Integrated Conservation, taking place between 29 and 31 May. ALPZA is the Latin American Zoo Association and CBSG is the IUCN Species Survival Commission Conservation Breeding Specialist Group. The main objective of the workshop is to develop a strategy that points out how ALPZA members and other Latin American zoos and aquariums should act towards biodiversity conservation. Over 30 participants from zoos throughout South America will come together, alongside representatives from the Association of Zoo and Aquariums (AZA), European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA), and some International NGOs.

Romain Pizzi, Veterinary Surgeon

Romain Pizzi, Veterinary Surgeon

Romain Pizzi, Veterinary Surgeon at RZSS, presented a talk about wildlife surgery at the European Association of Zoo and Wildlife Veterinarians (EAZWV) conference in Barcelona, last week. The conference was attended by over 350 zoo and wildlife vets from Europe and further afield. This week, meanwhile, Romain will present to an assembly of human surgeons, medical engineers and health care providers at the International Research Centre for Digestive Cancer (IRCAD) and European Institute for Tele-Surgery (EITS) at the University of Strasbourg. His talk will explore innovations in delivering human surgical interventions in third world countries.

(L-R) Chris West CEO of RZSS, Colin Bean SNH, Roisin Campbell - Palmer, Karen Taylor SNH, Dr Aileen McLeod MSP, Simon Jones SWT, Phillipa McKee FCS

(L-R) Chris West CEO of RZSS, Colin Bean SNH, Roisin Campbell – Palmer,
Karen Taylor SNH, Dr Aileen McLeod MSP, Simon Jones SWT, Phillipa McKee FCS

I joined RZSS Conservations Projects Manager Roisin Campbell-Palmer in Knapdale last week to meet with Aileen McLeod MSP, Minister for Environment and Climate Change, to discuss beaver reintroduction to Scotland and our work at the Scottish Beaver Trial to date. This is ahead of the decision by Scottish Government later this year on the future of beaver reintroduction to Scotland.

Photo by Rob McDougall

Photo by Rob McDougall

And finally, HRH The Princess Royal paid an official visit to RZSS Edinburgh Zoo on Friday 22 May. HRH has been the Society’s Royal Patron since 2009 and last visited the Zoo in September 2013 to celebrate our centenary year. The Princess Royal’s visit coincided with two very important ten year conservation anniversaries for RZSS, as the Society has been working with chimpanzees in Uganda and giant armadillos in the Brazilian Pantanal since 2005. To celebrate, HRH visited the Zoo’s innovative and interactive chimpanzee enclosure, the Budongo Trail, to discuss the Budongo Conservation Field Station in Uganda and to see Velu, the first baby chimpanzee to be born in Scotland in 15 years, who has his first birthday next month.

Photo by Rob McDougall

Photo by Rob McDougall

“It is that range of biodiversity that we must care for – the whole thing – rather than just one or two stars.” – David Attenborough

Highland Wildlife Blog – Wolf Pack Politics

May 22, 2015 § 1 Comment

by Douglas Richardson, Head of Living Collections, RZSS Highland Wildlife Park

On the same day that our new female polar bear arrived from Denmark, another important carnivore arrived. Jax, a two year old male European wolf, arrived from Jarv Zoo in Sweden to be paired with our female wolf, Ruby.

Most people think of wolves as quite social animals, which they are, but establishing a compatible wolf pack is far from straightforward, and if not done properly, the wolves can start to set-about each other with potentially fatal results. To enable Jax to be introduced to Ruby, all Ruby’s relatives had to be moved to other collections to create a suitably stable environment for the new pair to settle. The basis of every wolf pack is the alpha male and female, who are unrelated to each other, and their offspring. As they mature, some of the offspring will disperse out of the pack to find mates and start their own packs and sometimes older offspring are driven out if the home territory does not have enough prey to sustain the pack. In a captive situation, older offspring would be sent to other zoos to start new packs as space can become an issue, not food supply.

Wolf_blog

Ruby’s parents were introduced to each other in 2010 in what was our new wolf wood, opened by the Princess Royal in September of that year. In 2012 they reared their first litter of three males and two females, one of which was Ruby. In 2013 they reared a litter of two males and two females bringing the pack size up to 11. In 2014 Ruby’s mother became ill and had to be put to sleep, but when one of the alpha pair is lost, the whole pack structure can collapse into a snarling, fighting mass as the hierarchy is disrupted and the fights for dominance begin. A new park called Wild Place was looking for a single sex group of wolves and so we sent them all the males to reduce the aggravation in our group and avoid any mating between relatives. This left us with the four young females. Three other zoos in the UK were looking to add European wolves into their collections, so the coordinated plan was for us to send Ruby’s three sisters south to be joined by young males from continental zoos. Four male wolves were imported, with one, Jax, coming north to us, to start a new Highland Wildlife Park wolf dynasty.

After 24 hours in the adjacent off-exhibit enclosure and a suitable amount of observed interest from both wolves, the separating door was opened and the new pair was together. Initially Jax spent his time checking out the main enclosure whilst Ruby watched him closely. Because this new pack is just one male and one female in a large complex enclosure, there is no competition with others of the same sex and there is plenty of room to avoid confrontation. After a few weeks, all the signs indicate that we have a new bonded pair, and with some luck the next litter of wolf pups will be born one year from now.

This piece was first published in the Strathspey & Badenoch Herald

Chief Executive’s Blog

May 8, 2015 § Leave a comment

Hello,

The first of our gentoo penguin chicks hatched this week at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo and the rest of the eggs will continue to hatch over the next two to three weeks. The gentoos have laid around 40 eggs, so we are hoping for quite a few chicks this year. I look forward to seeing all the young penguins as they start leaving their nests and exploring their surroundings.

We have also had a few births at RZSS Highland Wildlife Park over the last couple weeks, as well as some new arrivals. The first new-borns at the Park this year were a Japanese macaque baby and a Mishmi takin calf, followed by a Przewalksi’s wild horse foal and a European bison calf. The young are all doing well.

The Mishmi takin calf has recently been named Snow, in-keeping with the Game of Thrones theme the keepers seem to have become so fond of recently! Last year the series characters Arya and Khaleeshi got their animal doppelgängers at the Park. We have also recently received a young male Mishmi takin from berlin, which will join the breeding herd. The Mishmi takin are a stocky goat antelope, normally found from the Chinese province of Yunnan in the eastern Himalayas to Bhutan and northern Myanmar, and are listed as a vulnerable species on the IUCN Red list.

Last week RZSS research scientist Helen Senn attended the 15th Annual Sahelo-Saharan Interest Group Meeting in Abu Dhabi. This is a meeting of scientific, conservation and government agencies working in the Sahel and Saharan region. She presented her work on scimitar-horned oryx genomics. Highly detailed genetic data like this is hopefully going to improve the management of this species both in captivity and when it is re-introduced to the wild. She also presented her and the teams work on sand cats, a project that aims to try and find out what the genetic basis for the sub-species of the sand cat is.

Dr Helen Senn presenting at the 15th Annual Sahelo-Saharan Interest Group Meeting in Abu Dhabi

Dr Helen Senn presenting at the 15th Annual Sahelo-Saharan Interest Group Meeting in Abu Dhabi

Our RZSS conservation geneticist, Dr Gill Murray-Dickson, was in Battleby last week to present a talk about the use of environmental DNA for detection of species presence or absence. eDNA is genetic material derived directly from environmental samples (such as a loch water), without the source of the DNA actually being present. The meeting was organised by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) to discuss research the use of eDNA as a tool for aquatic surveillance, and other potential applications, with researchers and relevant stakeholders

And finally, after all the excitement surrounding our Latin America coordinator Dr Arnaud Desbiez’s Whitley Award win for his work on the Giant Armadillo Conservation Project; the giant armadillo team is back to work and leaving for the Pantanal on Thursday. Although it is the end of the wet season, the floods have not been too severe and they don’t expect any problems reaching the field site.

Conservation is a state of harmony between men and land.

Aldo Leopold

Chief Executive’s Blog

April 30, 2015 § 1 Comment

Hello,

To start with I want to say that we are all saddened to hear of the passing of conservation luminary, Dick Balharry. He was a wonderful man who achieved a great deal in conservation in Scotland. Over the years he was involved with RZSS and he will be sorely missed by many who knew him. You can read our tribute to Dick on the RZSS website.

I am also very pleased to announce that the Latin America Coordinator for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, Dr Arnaud Desbiez, has been awarded the prestigious Whitley Award for his work on the RZSS Giant Armadillo Project. Also known as the Green Oscars, the Whitley award is awarded by the Whitley Fund for Nature to support the work of proven grassroots conservation leaders in developing countries. Arnaud was selected from over 170 applicants and is one of seven finalists to be awarded the Green Oscar.

HRH Princess Royal presented the award to Arnaud last night, at a ceremony held at the Royal Geographical Society, London. The award is worth £35,000 of funding which will go towards Arnaud’s work to conserve the rarely sighted giant armadillo in Brazil. We are all extremely proud of Arnaud and his spectacular work.

Giant Armadillo Project by Kevin Schafer

Giant Armadillo Project by Kevin Schafer

Still with giant armadillos, in my blog last week I mentioned that the RZSS Giant Armadillo Project team were running an expedition to find evidence of giant armadillos in forest fragments in the Sao Paulo state bordering Mato Gasso do Sul, where giant armadillos have not been seen for the past 30 years.

We have just received feedback from the team and thus far they have just found very old evidence of giant armadillos in the Sao Paulo reserve, likely from an animal that crossed the river and then came back again. There is no evidence yet of resident animals, but they are still hopeful as flooding has meant not all areas have been explored yet. The team will once again visit these areas at the height of the dry season in September to October.

In further international RZSS news, our Conservation Programme Manager in Southeast Asia, Dr Ross McEwing, is currently leading a training course in the Sumatran Way Kambad National Park. The training course has been organised by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and YABI, and aims to improve the collection of dung samples collected for DNA testing to determine the census size of the critically endangered Sumatran rhino in Indonesia. It was previously estimated that there were 200 Sumatran rhinos remaining, but the figures are believed to have dropped to as few as 100, albeit there is no data to provide an accurate census size.

WildGenes

WildGenes Team

Last week it was also reported that Malaysia’s Sumatran rhino population has dropped to a mere three individuals. This is upsetting news as the different species of rhinos around the world are being poached to extinction for their horns, which are believed to have medicinal properties in some Asian countries. Whilst previous DNA attempts have failed, Ross is providing technical support to the laboratory in Jakarta to improve their DNA analysis samples.

Some members of our WildGenes team – Jenny Kaden and Muhammad Ghazali – are busy in the lab on site at Edinburgh Zoo focusing on elephant, wildcat and python projects this week, whilst our conservation geneticist Dr Gill Murray-Dickinson was in Spain attending a start-up meeting for an EU project aimed at reducing fisheries discard.

In my previous blog, I told you about the two international PhD students who are being trained by our WildGenes team in single-nucleotide polymorphism SNP genetic analysis techniques. Priyank, the student from Norway, had a very successful trip and will take back what she learnt at the WildGenes lab here at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo to the Telemark University College (TUC) laboratory. We are also planning to conduct four beaver veterinary studies between TUC, RZSS and the University of Edinburgh, which will include beaver pathology and pregnancy testing via faeces.

In other RZSS news, Simon Girling, our Head of Veterinary Services, was in Paris last week to attend the European College of Zoological Medicine AGM. Here Simon presented original research on grass sickness in Przewalski’s horses at the Zoo and Wildlife Day of the International Conference on Avian, Reptile and Exotic Mammal Care.

And finally, on a lighter note, as spring seems to have arrived with a mighty blast of hot weather, so too does the promise of new arrivals.

We are expecting quite a few births at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo over the next few months. Our Darwin’s rhea adult pair has recently laid eggs and the male is currently sitting. Male rheas take their nesting duties very seriously and are very protective of their impending brood and nesting site during breeding season. These near threatened, flightless birds are incredibly hard to breed in captivity, but last year our bird team managed to help our Darwin’s rheas to successfully rear nine chicks. The youngsters from 2014 have almost all moved to other collections in the vital breeding programme, with the remaining two still to leave shortly.

Gentoo penguins nesting

Gentoo penguins nesting

Still with Edinburgh Zoo, we are also expecting our first gentoo penguin chick to hatch at the beginning of May and there are also a few suspected impending primate births due to happen over the next few months.

Meanwhile, at RZSS Highland Wildlife Park we have already had a few births. Given the seasonal nature of all the species at the park, we generally do not have any births between October and March, but now with the arrival of the warmer weather we have already started welcoming the first of our new-borns. Our Temminck’s tragopan has recently laid three eggs. These colourful birds are considered by many to be the most beautiful pheasant in the world because of their bright plumage.

Our Japanese macaque has recently given birth, bringing the troop up to 22 individuals. The baby is quite small at the moment, but is having no problem clinging onto his mum. We have also had a takin calf born to one of our older females who appears to be doing well. The mother and her new calf, as well as her calf from last year, have been separated from the herd until the new youngster is a bit bigger.

Lastly, our new male wolf, from Jarv Zoo in Sweden, is settling in nicely with our remaining female wolf. Our other wolves have been sent on to Longleat Safari Park, West Midlands Safari Park and a private wolf centre where they have been paired with individual males. Our new female wolverine from Boras Zoo in Sweden has been successfully introduced to our resident male and has been actively digging for and catching voles and field mice.

“The more you know about a species, the more you understand about

how better to help protect them.” Alan Clark

Highland Wildlife Blog – Wildcat facts and fiction

April 29, 2015 § Leave a comment

By Douglas Richardson, Head of Living Collections, RZSS Highland Wildlife Park

The Captive Animal Protection Society (CAPS), with the help of a couple of their allies, recently managed to get a not inconsiderable number of column inches in various newspapers and internet news sites, including our own Strathspey and Badenoch Herald. As presented, it was a story that needed to be reported and it certainly showed Highland Wildlife Park and its parent organisation, the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) in a very negative light.

The main thrust of their outrage was the Scottish Wildcat Conservation Action Plan’s, of which over 20 conservation organisations are a part, secret plot to capture wildcats and bring them into zoos to enhance our profits under the guise of saving the species.

First, the Action Plan has been available to all on the SNH’s website since the formal launch in September 2013. It clearly states that part of the plan is to develop a captive programme, including the likely need for bringing in more cats to ensure the sustainability of the captive population which is to act as both a safety net against extinction and as a source of cats for future release, once areas have been cleared of ferals and cross-bred wildcat/domestic cats; it is important to note that the majority of the Plan is focused upon conservation efforts in the field, including in Strathspey.

Wildcat_Zak_2

What I found most galling was the spurious claim that removing genetically good wildcats from the wild would accelerate their extinction. This completely ignores the fact that the reason for the wildcat’s plight is due to them being genetically swamped by feral domestics and the hybrids that ensue from cross-breeding. If we leave wildcats in these high risk environments, they will most certainly disappear. As for RZSS trying to line its pockets: any cats that are brought in from the wild and incorporated into the captive programme will be kept in large, natural, off-exhibit enclosures, invisible to our visitors. Our commitment to the species will cost us money.

In North Carolina there is a growing population of over 100 red wolves. The red wolf was persecuted by humans, not unlike the wildcat was, and the expanding coyote population began to hybridise with the wolves, again like our situation with the wildcat. The species became extinct as a wild animal in 1980. Luckily a captive programme was initiated in 1969 using a combination of the few individuals in zoos and the selective capture of some of the last pure individuals. In 1987, the first pair of captive-bred wolves were released into North Carolina.

Is it better to conserve a species in the wild? Of course it is, but if the cause of the species’ rarity is affecting all the remaining wild populations and we have the skills to manage the species in captivity until the cause of their rarity is brought under control, we would be neglecting our responsibility if we did not use all the conservation tools at our disposal.

This piece was first published in the Strathspey & Badenoch Herald

Going Wild about Scotland through March

April 27, 2015 § Leave a comment

Jamie with pupils from Williamston Primary his old school

Jamie with pupils from Williamston Primary his old school

We’ve been up and down the country in March visiting schools in Perth and Kinross, North Ayrshire, South Ayrshire, Inverclyde, Renfrewshire, North Lanarkshire and the Scottish Borders.

Our beaver sessions were a particular favourite in Perthshire, where many pupils (and teachers!) had seen signs of beaver activity in the local area. It was therefore interesting for them to learn more about beaver ecology and discuss the impact they have on the environment. The Tayside beavers were not part of the official re-introduction trial but are thought to have been living in the area since 2006, probably originating from an accidental release from a private collection. The Tayside Beaver Study Group (TBSG), made up of land owners and conservation groups, including the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), are now monitoring the population.

We enjoyed a fantastic day welcoming aboard members of the public at the Loch of the Lowes Scottish Wildlife Trust reserve near Dunkeld. A beautiful, peaceful area, it was great to share ideas with their staff and volunteers on a similar mission to connect people with nature.

Anna, a PhD student from the University of Edinburgh, joins us for British Science Week 2015.

Anna, a PhD student from the University of Edinburgh, joins us for British Science Week 2015.

Another highlight was visiting Williamston Primary in Livingston. The pupils were very excited to learn that this was our education officer Jamie’s old school! We also celebrated British Science Week by having PhD students from the University of Edinburgh join us at schools. It was great for the children to meet working scientists and learn about the day-to-day tasks involved in carrying out scientific research.

We visited schools in the Borders for the first time this month, meaning our bus has so far reached twenty five out of thirty two local authorities in Scotland! Here we carried out our first mini-beast session of the year. With not many leaves on the trees yet, the children got stuck in and got their hands dirty digging for creepy-crawlies under rocks and in the soil. We look forward to seeing what else will emerge as the weather gets warmer…

Bus driver DaveFrom the driver’s seat

Each month our ‘Wild about Scotland’ bus driver David gives you a wee insight into what it’s like to drive our double decker the length and breadth of Scotland.

Our bus in a former life on the streets of Newcastle. Photo by Daniel Stazicker

Our bus in a former life on the streets of Newcastle. Photo by Daniel Stazicker

An interesting assignment for me this month was meeting with bus enthusiast Daniel Stazicker and friends. He has followed our bus since it was first used on city services in Newcastle in 1995 (pictured). After many hard years of extensive use, it was transferred to Stagecoach Scotland West where it became a school bus in Kilmarnock, before being withdrawn and donated for the Wild about Scotland project. It was good to know the history of the bus as many visitors are curious about its transformation!

#Brodie knows best

BrodieKnowsBestEach month Brodie the bus mascot answers your questions about science and nature.

Q. Where do mini-beasts go during the winter?

A. Mini-beasts or invertebrates (animals without a backbone) are ectothermic, this means that unlike us they cannot generate their own body heat. So over winter they have a wide range of strategies to cope with the cold weather. Some invertebrates avoid the cold altogether by migrating to a warmer area. Others undergo a form of hibernation, lowering their metabolic rate to an absolute minimum where all growth and development is suspended. Some hibernate as adults, for example, ladybirds cluster together underneath rocks or in amongst rotting wood. Others, such as caterpillars and beetles, hibernate as larvae and burrow in leaf litter or further underground. Some can even replace the water in their bodies with glycerol – a type of anti-freeze! Dragonflies and damselflies are nymphs over the winter period, staying deeper underwater in rivers and ponds to avoid the freezing surface water. Honey bees stay together in their hives, vibrating their wings to generate heat. So mini-beasts are still around over winter, they are just more active and easier to spot in the warmer months!

Submit your questions for next month on Twitter @WildaboutScot using #Brodieknowsbest

Top teacher comments and tweets

“Fantastic delivery- children really enjoyed it! Thank you!” St Columba’s Junior School.

“The range of activities not only challenged the children, but encouraged independent learning”, Sacred Heart Primary School.

“Great curriculum links to habitat work. It is great for the children to connect their learning in a Scottish context”, Beith Primary School.

“A fantastic workshop that all pupils thoroughly enjoyed. The practical stations engaged and motivated all”, Clarkston Primary School.

“Curriculum for Excellence places lots of emphasis on learning about Scotland” Deanburn Primary School.

“Children loved the concept of learning on the bus” Langlee Primary School.

“Thanks for coming, great to see the children so enthusiastic and working in a team!” Lauder Primary School.

Next month – April

We are visiting schools in Aberdeenshire, Glasgow, South Lanarkshire and Perth and Kinross.

Upcoming Public Events where you can see the bus:

  • Thursday 21st May – ‘Puffin Fest’ at the Scottish Seabird Centre, North Berwick.
  • Saturday 23rd – Sunday 24th May – Scotland’s Big Nature Festival, Levenhall Links, Musselburgh.

For more information about the Wild about Scotland project and to see when the bus is next in your area, visit our website at www.rzss.org.uk/wildaboutscotland, follow us on twitter @WildaboutScot, or like our Facebook page.

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