It’s all going on in the Highlands!

October 21, 2009 § 10 Comments


Whereas Edinburgh Zoo has been rather quiet of late, the Highland Wildlife Park has seen a recent flurry of activity! Here’s what has been going on up here!

As we mentioned just a few weeks back, the seasonal deer rut is now in full swing. The red deer at the Highland Wildlife Park have certainly been demonstrating some interesting behaviours as a result of this. ‘Snap’, the 11 year old dominant male has been doing lots of roaring, as well as chasing away the younger males. However, 10 year old ‘Thor’ who in the past has been a contender for ‘Snap’, has not been putting up much of a fight this year. This is most probably a result of damaging the brow tines (the antler ‘points’ closest to his skull) of his antlers earlier in the year, and therefore somewhat disabling his ability to fight. At least he knows when it’s a lost cause!

We couldn’t resist! 

We couldn’t resist!

The red deer aren’t the only ones getting in on the action! The Bukhara deer (a threatened subspecies of Red Deer, endemic to Central Asia) have also been following suite, with ‘Esan’ the 5 year old dominant male, taking time to bellow at and chase the younger competition away. He has also been displaying to the adult female, ‘Mariam’. Bukhara deer were once on of the most threatened mammal species on earth. In 1999, they numbered just 400 individuals. However, since then, efforts to reintroduce this species to the wild, and to restore their habitat have boosted their numbers to around 1000 individuals. This is still not a huge number, and so the captive breeding of this species remains important.

The Bukhara deer stag 

The Bukhara deer stag

The European forest reindeer bull has also been very ‘stroppy’ of late! This is one species that you don’t want to mess with during the rut, as males can become particularly aggressive. Forest reindeer are far rarer than domestic reindeer, and can only be found wild in Northern Scandinavia. The park’s herd are part of an important conservation breeding program that supports the remaining wild population. We hope that our bull will do his bit for his species this year, and that we will welcome some young into the world next summer time.

A reindeer stag practices some moves! 

A reindeer stag practices some moves!

While our male European Elk (commonly known as moose), ‘Bob’ doesn’t have any competition to engage in fighting with, we are pleased to confirm that he has recently been spotted mating with the female, ‘Lisa’. This pair made history recently by producing Britain’s first European Elk calf in over 1000 years (the estimated time that they became extinct in this country). Bob arrived at the Highland Wildlife Park just over one year ago, but he wasted no time in getting to know the resident female! European Elk are a notoriously difficult species to keep and breed in captivity. However, keepers at the Highland Wildlife Park have been working hard to ensure that they provide the best husbandry possible for our young elk family. This includes providing them with tree saplings and browse (branches from trees) to eat, as well as a special ‘moose’ pellet, for all their vitamin and mineral requirements, made palatable with orange juice! This may sound quite strange, considering that elk would be unlikely to come across an orange tree in their native environment! However, extensive research (conducted by Washington State University’s captive-ungulate facility) into elk nutrition proved that pellets were made all the more palatable for this funny species, by adding citrus pulp! We hope that as a result of all this care, and the observed breeding behaviour, we may well be welcoming another elk calf into the world. Gestation is approximately 8 months, and so we will have a long wait to see if this is the case!

The European Elk 

The European Elk

We can report that Mercedes, the polar bear, has now moved up to her new Highland home at the Wildlife Park in Kingussie. Her move went very smoothly, and she had already begun to settle into her new enclosure by lunch time on Monday. Visitors to the park have already reported ‘glimsping’ her in her off-show housing area. However, we would not advise visiting the park specially to see her just yet as she will not be clearly visible for some time. She will be given plenty of time to acclimatise to her new surroundings gradually and we will let you know as soon as she is ready to greet her admiring public!

If you are planning to visit the Highland Wildlife Park this week, then you shouldn’t be disappointed! Alongside the seasonal rut, and Mercedes arrival, the RZSS Wild Bus has also driven up to offer animal handling sessions to visitors. This is great opportunity to get up close and personal with some much smaller species of animals. Places are limited, so once you have arrived at the park, please make sure to book your space for one of the sessions. There is no extra charge for this activity.

The RZSS ‘Wild Bus’ will make an appearance at the Highland Wildlife Park this week 

The RZSS ‘Wild Bus’ will make an appearance at the Highland Wildlife Park this week


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§ 10 Responses to It’s all going on in the Highlands!

  • Barry says:

    I am very pleased to hear that Mercedes is settling in well in her new enclosure. However she is now entering the twilight of her life and I am wondering what the future plans are for this facility. For instance does the society intend to contribute to the captive breeding programme of Polar Bears? Or is some other use envisaged?

  • Simon says:

    I had a feeling the move would go relatively smoothly. Mercedes is on smart polar bear and I’d seen her walk in to the moving crate on her own outwith a training session. Well done to Alison (head keeper on carnivores) and her team for getting Mercedes ready for the move. I’m sure she’ll settle very quickly indeed once she finds somewhere she can get nice and dirty and then stretch out for a snooze!

  • Jake says:

    Why does the red deer in the top picture have his ears down ? He looks funny.

    The Bukhara deer stag looks cool. I’ve never heard of that kind of deer before.

  • ali says:

    What will Mercedes enclosure have in it? Any news about the panda bears? About the pallas cats?

  • rzss says:

    Thank you for your enquiry. We are planning to bring a new species into the zoo to fill Mercede’s old enclosure. Modifications will first be made to the enclosure, and following this, we hope to welcome a new species to the zoo in early summer 2010. We will reveal the identity of the new species in time, so keep posted!
    We are still working towards getting Pandas at Edinburgh Zoo. We have made progress. However, this is a very political issue, and as a result, at any time, these plans could fall through. We will keep you updated with any progress (or setbacks). It is likely, that if we do get Giant pandas, it won’t be until 2011.
    There is no news on the Pallas cats. They are still resident at Edinburgh Zoo, and we plan to keep this species in the collection in the future. Unfortunately, no breeding this year though!

  • rzss says:

    Thanks for your enquiry! (I really like your blog by the way!)
    In the same way that we move our eyebrows when we feel different emotions, animals will move different parts of their body to show how they are feeling. In this picture of the red deer, he is probably in the middle of calling to the other deer. He may be feeling anxious about his position in the group, or worried that another male will become aggressive with him. Alternatively, he may just have been caught mid-sneeze!
    The Bukhara deer are little-known sub-species of the red deer. At one point, they became so endangered that only a few hundred were left. However, thanks to re-introduction programs they are now increasing in number.

  • ali says:

    Thanks for answering my question, rzss

  • ali says:

    Can you please announce what the new species is? I’m anxious to know.

  • rzss says:

    I am afraid you will have to wait to find out, just like everyone else! We cannot announce the arrival of a new species until we have complete confirmation that it will be arriving. Watch this space!

  • ali says:

    awwwwwwwwwww! How long do we have to wait?

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