Chief Executive’s Blog

July 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

Well, welcome to this my last blog for RZSS.  As from next week I will be handing over to Chris West, the Society’s new CEO who starts on Monday 16th July.

The last 14 months have flown by and it has been a time of great transition and transformation for the Society, RZSS can certainly look forward with great confidence to the future.

The highlight of the last year for me was of course the arrival of giant pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang to Edinburgh Zoo, cementing the RZSS’s role in the future research and conservation of one of the world’s most endangered species.  Their arrival was the culmination of five years of political and diplomatic negotiation at the highest level.  A ten year partnership that has created opportunity for Edinburgh Zoo, Scotland and the UK, the giant pandas have now been seen by well in excess of 300,000 visitors.

Over to another species that is also synonymous with Edinburgh Zoo, and has been for many many years, the penguins!  This week saw the launch of Edinburgh Zoo’s Penguins Rock Appeal.  With the outdoor penguin pool serving our resident birds well for numerous years, in March we announced that it would be the focus of an extensive maintenance and repair programme.  After extensive investigative work, RZSS took the decision to bring forward a total redesign of the enclosure.  Including interactive elements, lowered sight lines, diving boards and slides, the project will cost a total of £750,000 and will see the outdoor penguin pool renamed Penguins Rock.  Our appeal is asking our valued visitors if they can assist RZSS in raising £100,000 towards the revamp.  To find out more or donate to this exciting project please visit or contact us on or 0131 314 0380.

In last week’s blog, my penultimate, I mentioned the five new wonderful wolf pups that were born at the Highland Wildlife Park.  The keepers have names for two of these little characters and it’s over to you to name the remaining trio of pups. You can enter the competition to name a wolf pup and if your suggested name is selected you’ll also have the chance to meet their keeper.  Visit the Highland Wildlife Park’s Facebook page for more information and details on how to enter

James Silvey, one of our education officers at Edinburgh Zoo, organised a BIAZA (British and Ireland Association of Zoos and Aquariums) Native Species Working Group Conference hosted by RZSS. The conference was held at the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park headquarters in Balloch this week and included field trips to the Scottish Beaver Trial site at Knapdale as well as the water vole reintroduction site near Aberfoyle.

We also have an update from our conservation colleagues working on a chimpanzee project in the Budongo conservation field station in Uganda. The project which RZSS funds, is solely dedicated to the study and conservation of chimpanzees in the Budongo Forest Reserve and the relationship between biodiversity and the local community.  The team are confident that they now know the entire home range of the Waibira chimpanzee community and have reported that a habituation process is going extremely well.  Two females within this group are currently pregnant and their youngsters will positively contribute towards the habituation process.

The research will help contribute towards tropical rainforest management for the local communities who use the forest as a source of timber. One of the next key steps in this important project is to embark on an EAZA funded project to identify the conservation opportunities for protected chimpanzees living in unprotected habitats south of the Budongo.

Event wise, there is a very interesting chance to create enrichment for animals at Edinburgh Zoo this Saturday (14th July).  Starting from 11am in Budongo Trail, participants can create then see how some of our animals react to the objects that they have made.  Visit to find out more.

Finally, I just want to thank everyone for their help and support during my time with the RZSS.  At points it’s been challenging, but always extremely rewarding, I leave with extremely fond memories of my time here.

Goodbye and thank you,

Hugh Roberts


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