Chief Executive’s Blog

August 3, 2012 § Leave a comment


This is my second blog and I’m now in my third week. I will start by sharing some further early impressions before moving to the news items.

One immediate impression is that we have been very busy indeed with high numbers of visitors on sunnier days. This is good in terms of business however I do appreciate the pressure it puts on to the teams and how well everyone has responded. In the Highlands we had our busiest day this week…the busiest since 1986! Over 1,400 people made their way to the Park on Tuesday, which is a wonderful achievement. Overall we are bucking a UK trend amongst zoos by having increased visitation…despite the weather and economic factors.

I have been meeting more people and thank you to so many of you who smile and tell me your names. I will do my best to remember them all. Thank you too for the explanations and advice! I have many more people to meet to include staff, volunteers, members, partners and possible supporters. I am getting a very positive feeling of pride in our sites. There is a desire to know how well we are doing and what is happening in a general sense.

The key points to share are that we are continually developing and growing enabling us to ‘take stock’ and look into the future; to affirm who we are, why we are here, what we do and where we would hope to be in 1,3,5 or 10 years’ time and how we can get there. We have the skills, commitment, passion and inventiveness to achieve great (even greater) things in conservation, animal care, education, science, fieldwork, being environmentally responsible…..and as a vibrant and financially successful visitor attraction. We mustn’t forget that the business supports all our charitable mission activities to continue and grow. My role is to enable the organisation…us…to reach our potential and to manage the balance between commercial imperatives and conservation priorities.

Once I have teased out more thoughts and assimilated more information, explored more areas and received more views, I will be able to share my thoughts on looking forward and also how important projects like ‘Penguins Rock’ and centenary preparations for Edinburgh Zoo are progressing. At the Highland Wildlife Park we can similarly share thoughts on site,visitor and animal opportunities, particularly with next year being the ‘Year of Scottish nature’. There are so many things we want to do and will look at but whatever we do we must do it properly.



Hobbit, a new born male Mishmi takin calf at the Highland Wildlife Park, has been taking his first few steps away from mother Cava and is starting to explore his enclosure for himself. I’m told that keepers at the Park thought Hobbit was the perfect name for this new arrival due to the large difference in size between a calf and a fully grown Mishmi takin. Natives to the Himalayas these surefooted and stocky goat-antelopes can be found living as high up as 14,000feet and amazingly they can follow their mother across difficult terrain just one day after birth!

Staying in the Highlands, the Clan Macpherson is celebrating their 20th anniversary of supporting Scottish wildcats at the Park. Since the early 1990’s the Clan, whose crest features a wildcat, have been contributing to helping conserve the wildcat. One of Scotland’s iconic species there are only as few as 400 thought to be left in the wild.

Meanwhile the gardens team and staff at Edinburgh Zoo have teamed up with local groups to tackle a growing concern on Corstorphine Hill. It’s been invaded by a non-native plant species called Himalayan Balsam, this plant was introduced to the UK as a garden plant but quickly became a nuisance and is out competing native plants. It is part of our wider conservation remit and we were delighted to work together with our neighbours on clearing this invasive plant from the land.

Our Science Summer School, run by the education team at Edinburgh Zoo, is coming to the end of its first week and has been a great success. Students have the chance to learn all about the science behind the Zoo. Congratulations are due to our education team who have won the Sandford Award for Heritage Education 2012, a quality award for the exceptional quality of the education service. This is a well-deserved award for the education team.

Some exciting news from our colleagues at the Scottish Beaver Trial site at Dubh Loch is that three new beaver kits have emerged and were spotted earlier this week.You might even be lucky enough to spot them on one of the guided walks at the Scottish Beaver Trail site in Knapdale. For more information on the guided walks please visit:

Best, Chris


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