Chief Executive’s Blog

August 17, 2012 § Leave a comment


I have continued with a round of meeting people and listening to ideas. I have spent time on both sites and am finding more and more about our diversity and strengths. Out of the many observations I can say that discovering about our WildGenes work was exciting. Here we have an international centre and skill base that gives us huge conservation and science credentials. We are looking at some quick fixes more generally to make sure that we don’t have any empty or uninterpreted enclosures during a busy time of year. Colleagues from Animal, Visitor Services, Education and Works teams are collaborating to effect quick changes whilst we start to fashion longer term thinking. The Penguins Rock project is moving along pretty swiftly now and I plan to brief everyone shortly. In the meantime the fund-raising team are working hard…

Next week I hope to find out more about more of the hard work of teams. And again thank you to everyone who smiles and greets me as I wander around!

Edinburgh Zoo continues to be a hive of activity…even more so than usual…as our male giant panda Yang Guang (Sunshine) celebrated turning nine years old. With a range of events taking place across the Zoo, it was definitely a very special birthday – with even a few celebrities sending their special birthday messages to him.

Visitor numbers at both the Zoo and Highland Wildlife Park have been good as well, with people making the most of the sunny spells over the last week or so.

Now on to the news…

Edinburgh Zoo’s visitors and staff joined together in helping to wish Yang Guang a very happy ninth birthday, his very first birthday on Scottish soil. The birthday boy woke up to find his keepers had been busy making him special bamboo box shaped presents, smeared in honey.  He was also treated to extra helpings of his nutritional ‘panda cake’ supplement, all garnished with another splash of honey – what more could a panda want! I’m told he thoroughly enjoyed his treats. The rhinos Bertus and Samir, along with the troop of chimps, also enjoyed a few slices of birthday cake made to a special animal friendly recipe.

Our panda costume characters were on hand this week to help launch a link-up with Marshalls pasta. Marshalls, who are also a panda partner, helped support RZSS with a donation of £10,000 towards the general care and welfare of our black and white two. You’ll soon be able to pick up special Marshalls panda macaroni packs in store, which feature facts about Tian Tian and Yang Guang.

This week the WildGenes team, the DNA lab tucked away at Edinburgh Zoo, have hosted Hannes Lerp, a population geneticist from Frankfurt University in Germany. Utilising our specialist DNA extraction lab, Hannes has been working with the team to extract DNA from museum samples taken from antelopes in Arabia – hoping to understand the different species that could have been found in Arabia over 100 years ago. The results will help in current and future conservation work and projects.

Finally, did you know that Edinburgh Zoo is home to some of the UK and Ireland’s top ten species reliant on zoos for survival…in fact, we’re home to four out of the ten species mentioned on a list compiled by BIAZAs (British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums). On your next visit to the Zoo be sure and keep an eye out for our blue crowned laughing thrushes, these small but incredibly vocal birds have a multitude of songs that can often sound like human laughter. We also have a pair of Amur leopards, Zane and Skodge, who are much endangered big cats – with only as few as 45 remaining in the wild. Our lively Sclater’s lemurs, also known as the blue-eyed black lemur, also made it onto the list as they can only be found in a small area of Madagascar.  Other than lemurs, fascinatingly humans are the only other primate species that can have blue eyes. Noemie and Duke can often be spotted making their way across the overhead walkway at their enclosure.

Perhaps one of the Zoos best kept conservation secrets is our success in helping to save the Polynesian tree snail(also known as the Partula snail), one of a group of very rare snails found in French Polynesia – a group of islands in the South Pacific.

Hidden away in a small off show area of Edinburgh Zoo, due to the very exact conditions they need to be kept in to survive and thrive, is a collection of tiny 20mm long exotic little snails.  Although not particularly exciting to look at, some varieties of this species of little suckers are completely extinct in the wild.  As part of an international breeding programme, Edinburgh Zoo’s conservation experts have had such success in getting their collection of Partula snails to breed, that some types of the snail have been increased in number from just two to over 40!

Best, Chris


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