Hellos, Goodbyes, and a Conservation Update!

June 15, 2010 § Leave a comment

 A fond farewell and some new best friends!  
The past couple of weeks has seen us say goodbye to Fanindra, our Indian one-horned rhino.  At six years old Fanindra is now old enough to breed and on June 2nd he left us for Rotterdam ready to take part in the breeding programme.  He will be introduced to a female sometime this week and they will hopefully go on to breed successfully!

Fanindra’s departure has meant that we have been able to welcome a new addition to the zoo.  Bertus, an 18-month old Indian one-horned rhino arrived on June 1st from Rotterdam Zoo and has now been introduced to Samir, our other Indian one horned rhino who arrived nearly a month earlier.  When he first arrived at the zoo Samir was quite nervous and probably just generally unsure about the whole situation and so keepers had planned to introduce the two very gradually.  However once Bertus arrived it was decided that they would be introduced straight away as Bertus had such a laid back attitude.  Keepers are never quite sure how an introduction will go but this pair have now become the best of friends!  

Head hoofstock keeper Sue Gaffing said: “In the wild, rhinos are solitary animals and only tend to come together to mate, but while they are young they can live happily alongside each other. But you are never quite sure how a new pair coming from different collections will get on. In the past, there have been dominance struggles but this pair have been totally different. Bertus is incredibly relaxed and his chilled attitude has really rubbed off on Samir who was pretty nervous when he arrived. They are now inseparable, following each other around as if they are attached by an invisible rope! It is truly lovely to see and both are obviously enjoying each other’s company.”  

The two have become inseparable

Edinburgh Zoo plays an important part in the breeding programme for Indian one-horned rhinos.  Our role is to look after juvenile male rhinos until they reach maturity and can then go on to take part in the breeding programme.  While they are here keepers work hard to train the rhinos to make it easier to manage them once they reach adulthood.  For example they are trained to lift their feet so that keepers can check for foot problems and to allow keepers to take blood samples from behind their ear.  All training is done through positive reinforcement training where they are rewarded for doing the correct behaviour.  

Conservation in action!  

As we mentioned a couple of weeks ago there is plenty going on in our Budongo Trail exhibit at the moment but Budongo Trail isn’t just about looking after the chimpanzees here at the zoo.  Budongo Trail is called Budongo trail to highlight our links with the Budongo Conservation Field Station (BCFS) out in the Budongo Forest of Uganda.  The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) is the core funder of BCFS.  The BCFS is dedicated to the conservation and research of the wild chimpanzees.  The field station is a base for researchers to go and study chimpanzees in the wild and the main study group, the Sonso community have been studied for around 20 years.  Regular research is done into the impacts of the human-animal conflicts such as logging and hunting that occur on a daily basis in the Budongo Forest so that we can learn more about the impacts of humans on the chimpanzees, the forest and its biodiversity.  Through the findings of such research it is then possible to identify what action can be taken to try to minimise the threats to the chimpanzees.  

The Field Station in the Budongo Forest

The BCFS also carries out valuable conservation work in the Budongo forest and the surrounding area.  One example of this is their snare removal project.  Research at the field station has shown that around a third of the chimpanzees have injuries as a result of getting caught in snare traps; local people will often set these traps in the forest to try to catch bush pigs and small antelope for food but chimpanzees often get caught in these traps leading to possible infection, mutilation and even death.  In order to try to reduce such injuries BCFS not only hires ex-hunters as a snare patrol team to patrol the forest and remove snares, they also go out into the local communities to talk to hunters to try to persuade them to give up hunting.  If the hunters agree to stop hunting they take part in a snare mop-up in the area they usually hunt (in a recent 6 day mop-up around 50 hunters from 4 local villages removed 1,340 snares).  They are also educated on how they could choose not to hunt bush meat and if they agree and sign a conservation agreement with BCFS they are given two goats to boost their household income.  This is just one example of the conservation work that BCFS is involved with, they also educate local communities on the importance of conservation, promote sustainable use of the forest and run a long-term chimpanzee health monitoring programme to name just some of the work that they do!  

A snare in the forest

Around a third of chimpanzees in the Budongo Forest have an injury resulting from snare traps

This is just one example of the many in-situ conservation projects that RZSS is involved with so next time you visit the zoo don’t forget that the money you pay to come and see our animals not only goes towards the running of the zoo but also towards the conservation of animals out in the wild!   


As I’ve just mentioned RZSS is a charity devoted to the conservation of animals and their habitats.  We receive no direct government funding and rely on our visitors and fundraising.  We are currently looking out for some brave volunteers to help raise money for RZSS (the charity who owns Edinburgh Zoo and Highland Wildlife Park) by taking part in a Glasswalk challenge on Friday 30th July 2010!  

Participants will be asked to raise a minimum of £150 sponsorship (thats enough to employ a snare removal team in the Budongo forest for 2 weeks!) to take part in the event during which they will walk barefoot across 20ft of broken glass and come out unharmed!  Previous participants found the experience empowering and inspirational!  

For more information and to register for this event visit: http://www.edinburghzoo.org.uk/whatson/events/events_calendar/articles/event_110.html  

Remember Dolly?  

Don’t forget that this Thursday the zoo is hosting the debate ‘After Dolly – where do you draw the line?’.  In case you’ve forgotten Dolly was the sheep cloned by Roslin Institute near Edinburgh, this raised all kinds of questions into the ethics and possibilities surrounding genetic engineering.  It has been nearly 15 years since this breakthrough and now two of the world’s leading researchers, Bruce Whitelaw, Head of Developmental  Biology of Roslin Institute and Peter Sandoe, Professor of Bioethics at the University of Copenhagen will be here to discuss what has been done since Dolly, what could happen next and the ethics behind Roslin’s research into animal genetic engineering!  So make sure you come along to voice your opinion!  

Thursday 17th June 2010; Budongo Trail Lecture Theatre  

Tickets £6 Non-members; £4 members. Suitable for over 16’s only.  

Advance booking essential, to book please call 0131 314 0350 



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