Chief Executive’s Blog

August 24, 2012 § Leave a comment


It’s busy another week for me and I’ve been out and about in the Zoo between and often during the rather frequent rain showers. It seems that even the rain can’t dampen our visitors’ spirits though, and many people do seem to be making use of our wet weather route around the Edinburgh Zoo which focuses on those animals that tend to stay indoors. Visitation at the HWP is also going well.

Inevitably there has been media interest in the escaped ibis and the launch of panda encounters. It is hard getting the message over that we are a charity, that revenue goes towards conservation and that we are hugely responsible and vigilant about animal welfare. Nevertheless the media team do a great job.

My thanks to the multi-department work that goes on to provide a safe and attractive environment for visitors. We have large and busy sites and it is a never ending process…but vital. We share the amazing animals that we care for with visitors and sometimes I am reminded of the enormous privilege it is to see and get close to wonderful animals. The team at Budongo shared their chimps with me and I was again reminded of how intelligent and powerful our nearest living relatives are/ At the Highland Wildlife Park I met the two young male polar bears and realized how smart and affectionate they are. It is so obvious that they are playful as they spend so much time in their huge area playing together. This is how polar bears can be kept!

The penguin project is coming together in terms of timing, budget and the technical work plans to lining and filtration. As the design appearance takes more shape there will be visuals shared so we all know how exciting the outcome of the project will be.

…and so to our news…

Some truly exciting news from our conservation team this week. A new species of Puddle Frog has been found in Cameroon, and a scientific paper on it has just been published from field work sponsored by RZSS.  We have been sponsoring this work in Cameroon since 2008 along with long term monitoring of Lake Oku.  This work goes towards addressing threats to the conservation of amphibians threatened with extinction in Cameroon.  Thomas has also lent his amphibian expertise to the team at the Budongo Conservation Field Station in Uganda – a project which is funded by RZSS.  The training which took place earlier this year will add to the skills of field assistants at the station and diversify the science conducted in the forest.

2012 sees the Highland Wildlife Park celebrate their 40th anniversary, this year has also saw a record number of new-borns arriving in the Highlands. With over 40 youngsters being born to 14 species of animals at the Park, meaning our team have been kept extremely busy with this bumper brood of babies. Amongst the new arrivals this year are the five wolf pups born to parents Elara and Puika, the European grey wolves to be born at the Park was over 12 years ago. Wolves have had a presence at the Park virtually since it opened 40 years ago, so these new arrival are definitely doubly special.

Many of our animals have been getting the special treatment this week. Our 19 strong troop of chimpanzees enjoyed some yoghurt-treats courtesy of Onken, who have kindly supplied our chimps with six months’ worth of their new fat free big pot yoghurts. Zoo staff are currently undertaking a health study with these characterful chimpanzees which looks into the benefits of probiotic yoghurt. With each chimp tucking into around two pots of the stuff a week it is hoped that the live microorganisms and good bacteria will aid the chimp’s digestion. From what I’m told the summer fruit and strawberry flavoured yoghurt seems to be a big hit!

Our female panda Tian Tian celebrate her birthday in style at the Zoo when she turned nine. Keepers made her a special panda birthday cake from a special recipe which included honey (a firm favourite of Tian Tian’s) and a few carrot candles.

As you will know, our king penguins are holidaying down in Birdland, Oxford whilst work is carried out on their pool. Our most famous king penguin is Sir Nils Olav, Colonel in Chief of the Norwegian King’s Guard. It has been 40 years since the King’s Guard first adopted the king penguin as their official mascot. On their annual visit to Edinburgh this year, they helped us launch a thoroughly interesting animal exhibition – Animals beyond the Call of Duty. The exhibition which runs until 31st August features animal mascots throughout history. As well as Nils Olav, the exhibition also tells the stories of Wojtek the bear who lived at the Zoo from 1947 to 1963 and Winkie the pigeon that saved the crew of a RAF 42 squadron on a mission to Norway. This pigeon went on to win the first Dickin Medal, the animal bravery award. Well worth a visit on your next trip to Edinburgh Zoo.

Best, Chris

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