Chief Executive’s Blog

September 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

I was delighted to be amongst those welcoming British primatologist, ethologist anthropologist and UN Messenger of Peace, Dr Jane Goodall to Highland Wildlife Park earlier this week. I have known Jane for many years and she is an inspirational person and wonderful storyteller. She hugely enjoyed being in a beautiful place and meeting dedicated conservationists from a number of partner groups. She has promised to return when our wolverines are in place. Her view was that many animals at the HWP would not even know they were in a captive environment. She was very impressed. She also gave a short talk and playfully got everyone in the Dulverton Room to embrace and make hungry chimp vocalisations which was a novel and very effective icebreaker!

Jane was at the Park to launch an exciting new youth planting project, which will see the creation of biodiversity hubs throughout the Park. These hubs will be made up of selected native plant species that are sympathetic to the animals in the collection. I’m looking forward to seeing these hubs take shape over the coming months, which will then go towards helping our visitors learn about the importance of biodiversity protection and conservation – a truly exciting project for all involved.

Staying in the Highlands, the Park is now home to a three year old female Eurasian otter. These playful, intelligent semi-aquatic mammals are extremely strong and agile swimmers, which is how Rebecca, as keepers have named her taking her name from Olympic swimmer Rebecca Adlington. She has quickly settled in and is proving to be a real character, and can often be spotted stretching out of the water when she hears the keepers’ voices. Eurasian otters are the only species of otter that are native to the UK and are also one of the best conservation stories. This species was at risk of disappearing from our waters for good due to pollution, pesticides and a decrease in prey. However, these water-loving creatures are now thriving once again.

News this week too from our WildGenes lab which is located at Edinburgh Zoo, that they recently organised a Conservation Genetics Symposium at the European Congress of Conservation Biology, held in Glasgow.  The Symposium was attended by over 100 conservation scientists and wildlife geneticists discussing the application of genetic data to wildlife conservation and management. Speakers from as far away as New Zealand gave presentations on their research, alongside Drs Ross McEwing, Rob Ogden and Helen Senn from RZSS.  The event was a great success and helped highlight the conservation research work ongoing within the Society.

Visitors to Edinburgh Zoo may well have spotted our trio of Azara’s Agouti new borns, the three youngsters were born in July this year. These shy little creatures are native to Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay they are similar in size to a guinea pig with slightly longer legs. Interestingly, they are one of the few animals that can crack open a Brazil nut unaided, they are also known as ‘jungle gardeners’ due to their habit of burying seeds and then forgetting about them.

Also, Edinburgh Zoo’s mother and daughter Malayan tapir act, Sayang and Nadira were joined by a male tapir Mogli towards summer this year. The excitable new young male took a little while to settle in and couldn’t wait to meet the girls next door, the three of them have settled in well together and can often be spotted together under the trees of their enclosure. Malayan tapirs are the largest of the four species of tapirs, these herbivores are known for their distinct markings of stripes and spots when they are young that then fade as they grow, these markings are the perfect camouflage for the young in the rainforests of Asia – their natural habitat.

This week as I make my way around all the work teams, I had the pleasure of meeting the leaders of the Presentation Team and I was excited by their enthusiasm for connecting people with nature and conservation through their activities and animals. This is such an important part of what we do…

Looking ahead to this weekend on Saturday 8th and Sunday 9th September, the Scottish Beaver Trial is running an event bursting with fun and all things beavers at the Botanic Gardens Edinburgh. ‘Beavers at the Botanics’ is free entry and visitors can get stuck in helping to create a giant beaver habitat collage and navigate a guided beaver trail with the help of a GPS, along the way the trail will highlight different species of trees, plants and environments which help make up a beavers habitat. There are lots of opportunities to find out all about these characters on the day and discover more about how they live, so for a fun filled weekend do be sure to drop by the Botanics.

Until next week,

Best, Chris


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