Chief Executive’s Blog

January 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

Last week I briefly mentioned that the Amur tigers at the Highland Wildlife Park had been enjoying the snow fall. This week it was the turn of the animals at Edinburgh Zoo to experience the snowy weather conditions. I’m sure many of you will have seen the photographs of the Zoo’s female giant panda, Tian Tian, encountering a snowman for the very first time – which keepers created especially for her, complete with carrots and panda cake.

Giant pandas are used to colder temperatures and snow, as often experienced in the mountainous ranges in China from where they originate. I’m told that after the food was gone, Tian Tian made short work of demolishing the snowman. One of the panda team managed to capture a video of Tian Tian playing in the snow and rolling the large snow balls down the hill.

The pandas weren’t the only animals at the Zoo to enjoy the snow, as many of the big cats were spotted making the most of it, including the Zoo’s extremely rare and critically endangered Amur leopards, Zane and Skodge. They could be spotted hunting for their early morning feed amongst the Leopard3_KP_Jan2013snow. This is a species which is used to coping with cold weather climates, natives to the Russian Far East they experience harsh winters and often hot summers.

With only a small population of around 35 thought to be left in the wild, the work that both Highland Wildlife Park and Edinburgh Zoo carry out in caring for them and playing a part in a co-ordinated breeding programme is crucial to the overall conservation of this species.

This week Ellen, Edinburgh Zoo’s adult female pygmy hippo, celebrated her birthday as she turned eight with a special birthday cake made of straw with fruit and vegetables. The Zoo is part of an international co-ordinated breeding and conservation programme for this species, and is currently home to a family of three pygmy hippos: Otto, Ellen and their calf Eve. This species of hippo, significantly smaller than their relatives the larger common hippos, are natives to the lowland swamps and forests of North Africa find themselves listed as Endangered due to habitat destruction. Pygmy hippos spend the majority of their day in or around water, as this ensures that their skin is kept healthy, and they are perfectly adapted to this aquatic life as they have muscular valves that close their ears and nostrils when submerged.

Finally, although much of our work and research takes place in the zoo, we are keen to share our expertise out with the Zoo. We are lucky to have a stellar veterinary team to ensure the health and wellbeing of all our animals. This week saw one of our vets, Dr Romain Pizzi – a pioneering keyhole surgeon – present a lecture at Nottingham University. A special lecturer in Zoo and Wildlife Medicine, Romain often delivers many lectures to undergraduate veterinary students. This particular lecture revolved around zoo animal health, husbandry, and ethics: hugely interesting aspects of this profession to aspiring vets.

Best wishes,



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