Chief Executive’s Blog

September 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

I was thrilled to be amongst those offering a warm welcome to HRH The Princess Royal as she visited Highland Wildlife Park this week. As royal patron of RZSS since 2009, HRH has been a great supporter of the organisation and the conservation, research and education work we carry out. The Princess Royal made a special visit to help mark the 40th anniversary – a great milestone for the Park – to unveil a commemorative plaque to help celebrate the occasion. During the visit HRH met with some of our patrons, members of the Board and had the chance to re-visit Wolf Wood, which was opened back in 2008 by her. She was charmed by the five new playful European grey wolf pups which were born in May. As well as this Arktos one of the polar bears at the Park received his afternoon feed with a helping Royal hand.

Just as exciting for me was another meeting…with an assembled group of EZ Volunteers who listened to me talk about my journey and philosophy about conservation and some first impressions and forming thoughts. They were enormously supportive of the Zoo and our collective potential and I found it energizing to share time with them. There were many ideas and suggestions…of course…and that is just as it should be! I look forward to continuing conversations with all members of the team.

Returning to the Highlands for now, the European elk calf which was born in May to first time mother Froja and father Bob, has been sexed as a male and keepers have since named him Orc. The youngster is coming up to four months old now and has started to explore his surroundings a bit further away from mum. European elk are the largest member of the deer family, known for their extremely long legs which can make them appear slightly gangly also make them fast runners and can reach speeds of up to 35 miles (55km) an hour!

Conservation is a core element of RZSS, and we are involved in many projects spanning the UK and further afield – one of these projects is The Scottish Beaver Trial. The team, are currently in the city of Ivanić-Grad in Croatia where they are attending the 6th International Beaver Symposium, to focus on different areas such as beaver biology, behaviours and genetics. The team will be presenting outputs and findings three years into the Scottish Beaver Trial; the project started in May 2008 and is a five year trial reintroduction of the Eurasian beaver in the Knapdale forest.

Sofus the six year old male Patagonian sea lion will be leaving Edinburgh Zoo for his new home at Ludz Zoo in Poland, where he will be joining two females of breeding age.  Keepers have been working with Sofus over the past few months to train him to go into the transportation crate. Positive reinforcement training will mean that Sofus will move into the box comfortably as it is a process he has become used to; helping to remove any stress of getting a large animal into a transportation crate. In fact as I write this the crane is manoeuvring behind my office window and I am hoping that I don’t become victim of freak accident through collision with an aerial sea lion! At the end of the month we look forward to temporarily welcoming four great white pelicans to the old sea lion enclosure.

Lastly, this Saturday 22nd September is World Rhino Day, a day dedicated to celebrating all five species of rhinos and raising awareness of these impressive and striking animals around the world. Edinburgh Zoo will be joining in with the global celebrations as it is home to two, four year old male Indian one-horned rhinos, Bertus and Samir. Be sure to come along this Saturday and join in with exciting activities such as making a rhino mask and being a rhino ranger for the day and having a go at identifying either Bertus or Samir, as well as discovering lots of interesting facts about these endangered animals. World Rhino Day activities will be taking place from 11am-4pm on Saturday 22nd, please visit for more information.

Until next week,

Best, Chris


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