The Wildbus’ Wild Adventure Comes To An End & Animal Baby Updates

June 30, 2010 § 4 Comments

The education department and Royal Zoological Society as a whole is delighted to announce its Wildbus Centenary Tour has been completed. You may rememeber we blogged back on March 3rd about the Wildbus being our fanatastic Outreach Education project. A spectacular double decker bus acts as a mobile classroom and has been touring the country with the Outreach Team since last September. The aim of the centenary tour is to reach 100 schools with our rainforest conservation lessons and animal handling sessions and travel the length and breadth of the country to visit as many corners of Scotland as possible. Back in March we did a feature on the Wildbus been scrubbed into tip top condition for the summer ahead. At that stage the team had already made it to 61 schools and taught 3322 pupils! We featured the bus again back on April 7th after an eventful trip to Galashiels for the team where they got snowed in and had to detour to Berwick to meet the A1 and get safely home! They even managed a spot on the local news.

Since then the Wildbus and it’s team have had a manic schedule. You may have spotted them in Skye, the Highlands, Lewis, Fife, Ayrshire, Oban, Mull, Aberdeen and even Shetland which was the grand finale involving two 12 and a half hour ferry rides to get there and back again! To make the Shetlands really special the team split in half. The bus and its outreachers stayed on the mainland unable to fit on some of the smaller ferries. Based in Lerwick, Brae and Aith the bus managed to timetable in pupils from an amazing 15 schools in 4 days to visit the bus! While this was going on two outreachers set off as the car team to visit the islands the bus couldn’t manage to. Starting their week on Unst, Scotlands most northern island, the car team taught pupils from 7 different schools while travelling between Unst, Yell and mainland Shetland. Sometimes managing to teach an entire school in one lesson!

Now back from the biggest adventure of the tour the team can relax and reflect on their success. During the tour the team met pupils from over 130 schools and taught over  6000 children!! A truly epic acheivement. The team move on to concentrate on the next Outreach project and will spend the summer planning next terms lessons. The wildbus however is not redundant and will be making appearances at various events throughout the summer. Well done team! Here are some images they’ve gathered from their adventures.

Team Outreach!

Team Outreach!

Meeting the local puffins at Sumburgh Head

David Donald, Geoff de Boer, Polly Philpot, Debbie Sloan & Dee Master celebrate the tour.

With so much baby news recently we thought we’d mention the plight of the Cassowary and the fact the males are one of the true super dads of the animal kingdom. At Edinburgh Zoo we have a male and a female Cassowary and keepers are delighted to announce they have witnessed some positive breeding signs. It’s not been easy for our male however! Cassowarys are solitary birds only pairing up to breed. The male instantly has a hard time trying to woo his mate as she is about a third bigger than him and can deliever fatal injuries if she’s not in the mood. Cassowarys have long powerful legs that can deliver vicious kicks which can cause serious damage. Colin Oulton the Head Keeper of Edinburgh Zoo’s bird section tells us, “The male and female are kept in separate enclosures and when the keepers observed nesting signs we considered introducing them. Since our initial attempt we have seen some really interesting behaviour such as booming calling sounds that we’ve never heard before suggesting the female may be getting used to the idea of potential mate.”  

If the keepers efforts do result in a clutch of viable eggs, the male will be left to incubate them for 50-52 days before they hatch and produce brown striped chicks that will stay with Dad and the nest for around 9 months. The females can lay clutches of three to eight eggs about 9 by 14 centimetres in size only outsized by ostrich and emu eggs. Cassowarys are flightless birds found in Australia and New Guinea. Their numbers in the wild have been subject to rapid decline with them now classed as vulnerable. Breeding programs for this species in zoos like Edinburgh act as a means of preserving the species should the worst happen and they become extinct in the wild. Lots of luck to our keepers and to our Cassowary pair for the future!


Baboon Baby Boom!

This past year has been an extremely successful one for our baboon troops! At the zoo we have two species, Gelada baboons and Guinea baboons although Geladas are not technically true baboons, as although they are similar in many ways they actually belong to a different genus! 

In the past year we have had four guinea baboon infants born and they are totally fascinating to watch, next time you visit us make sure you take a look at what playful antics they are up to! 

Baboon babies have very dark hair and pink faces when they are born

At Edinburgh zoo we have a pretty big troop of Guinea baboons (Papio papio) (37 individuals: twenty females, thirteen males and four unsexed juveniles).  Guinea baboons are the smallest of all the baboon species, they live in multi-male, multi female groups which are thought to split off into smaller subgroups although compared to other baboon species not a huge amount is known about the details of their social structure in the wild.  Guinea baboons are found in West Africa and mainly inhabit areas of savannah or forest.  They are omnivores with a hugely varied diet, they will eat all kind of plant material from roots and tubers to flowers, fruits, leaves and anything in between, they eat grass, insects, lichens, mushrooms, seeds, even bark and twigs!  In the wild guinea baboons have suffered widespread population declines and although they are currently classed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as near threatened they are not far from meeting the criteria for a vulnerable species thanks to the dramatic population declines.  Such drops in numbers are mainly due to habitat loss; their habitat is being destroyed and trees felled to make room for large scale farming and the baboons are hunted for bush meat, for raiding crops and in the past they have even been exported in large numbers for use in laboratories.

The Gelada baboons have also seen huge breeding success!  Like the guinea baboon troop they also saw the births of four infants last year and we are happy to announce that this year in April we had two girls born within a day of each other! Desta was born to mother Aurora on April 5th and Antonia had Dahnay the very next day!  As with the guinea baboons all of the youngsters are really playful so make sure you stop by to see them play! Watch out for playfaces (big wide open mouths) as they chase, wrestle and jump on each other in their games!

Some gelada juveniles demonstrate the 'playface'!

Although geladas (Theropithecus gelada) do share a lot of similarities with baboons there are a few pretty interesting adaptations that make them rather unusual among primates! First of all geladas are the only primate whose main food source is grass and they have extremely opposable fingers to enable them to feed on individual blades of grass.  Because of this diet they spend a lot of time feeding and are known as ‘shuffle-feeders’ as they shuffle along the ground on their backsides as they feed, which leads us to their next interesting adaptation! Many primates (baboons in particular) are well known for their big pink bottoms!  It is the females who have this feature, a signal to the males that they are at the fertile part of their reproductive cycle. But gelada baboons with their ‘shuffle-feeding’ method of foraging spend so much time sat on their bottoms that they have developed a different signal.  Geladas (males and females) have pink hour-glass shaped patches of skin on their chests and a female’s fertility is advertised through this darkening in colour and the appearance of vesicles on these skin patches.

Female gelada - look at the hour glass shaped skin patch on her chest!

Geladas live in the highlands of Ethiopia and global warming is a huge threat for them.  Global warming is causing the gelada’s grassland feeding grounds to disappear! So it is not only important to maintain a captive breeding programme (this species is part of a European Endangered Species Breeding Programme EEP) but to also try and maintain its natural habitat.  The IUCN recognize gelada baboons as vulnerable meaning that they face a high risk of becoming extinct in the wild.


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§ 4 Responses to The Wildbus’ Wild Adventure Comes To An End & Animal Baby Updates

  • Nancy Somerville says:


    When I was at the zoo yesterday (Sunday 11th July) I noticed two eggs in the cassowary’s indoor space. Has the female laid, or are they decoys to get them ‘in the mood’?


  • rzss says:

    Hi Nancy,
    Yes the female cassowary has been laying eggs! The eggs are being incubated to see if any hatch out but it is not possible to tell if they are fertile until they have been incubated for the full 52 days. Even if none hatch out this year the fact that the female is laying eggs is a very positive sign which could mean breeding success next year!

  • rzss says:

    Heres a bit more of a Cassowary update for you from one of our bird keepers!

    The eggs that you can see in the enclosure are actually infertile Darwin’s Rhea eggs! The Cassowary female has laid six eggs over the past month but the keepers have removed them so that they can be incubated artificially. The pair haven’t yet been successfully introduced so it is unlikely that the eggs are fertile but there is a chance that they have mated underneath the barrier that seperates the two and so the eggs are being incubated just in case!
    The rhea eggs in the enclosure are there to allow the female to accumulate a number of eggs in one place. However it is not the female who incubates or rears the chicks, for Cassowarys it is the male who will do this.

  • Nancy Somerville says:

    Thanks for the update. Fingers crossed that they’ve managed to mate! They’re fascinating birds – so dinosaur-like.


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