Chief Executive’s Blog

March 22, 2013 § Leave a comment

Mishmi Takin

Photo by Alex Riddell

Earlier this month I told you about the first birth of the year at the Highland Wildlife Park; a male takin was born on 3rd March to a first time mother. There is always concern with first time mothers that they may be a bit clumsy or inattentive as they are still learning themselves. All was well until 13th March when the calf’s left hind leg appeared to be broken; probably stepped on by his mother.  The calf was lucky to have our excellent animal team at the Park on hand who confirmed the break and put a cast on the calf’s leg. Problems can occur if the sight of the cast puts the mother off or causes another herd member to act aggressively, but so far there has just been benign curiosity and the calf appears to be doing well dragging his leg behind him.


A new wolverine enclosure at the Highland Wildlife Park is nearing completion and may well turn out to be one of the largest enclosures for the species anywhere.  When it’s finished, the plan is to move the pair of wolverines currently living at Edinburgh Zoo to this new home in the Highlands.


Arktos, the less than bullet-proof polar bear, at least when compared to Walker, also gave his keepers a bit of a scare when he became rather quiet and completely lost his appetite this week.  It turned out just to be an upset stomach and within 48 hours, following some cramp and pain relief treatment, he was back to normal.


One of the keepers, Rebecca Pink, took the Park’s two young lynx that were born last year down to Drayton Manor Zoo in the Midlands – both will be paired with unrelated lynx in the future and hopefully will go on to produce offspring. Whilst back at the Highland Wildlife Park, the two adult lynx pair were then seen mating within days!


On the return journey, Rebecca came back with a female satyr tragopan and a female Temminck’s tragopan from Dudley Zoo.  Both are undergoing 30 days quarantine and will be introduced to respective males in a month’s time. 


Still at the Park, the Amur tigers have also been seen mating, but it is still too early to tell if any cubs are on the way.  Both animals are a perfect age to start breeding, so we are quietly hopeful that we will have cubs born this year.  Aside from getting the female pregnant, the other problem is that many young carnivores do not do very well with their first litter, but the animal team has created three separate cubbing areas for the female so that she can pick the one that suits her best.

As spring will hopefully soon be on its way, the Highland Wildlife Park and Edinburgh Zoo are shortly moving to spring/summer opening hours. The Zoo is open 9am to 6pm from Saturday 23rd March. The Park will be open from 10am to 5pm from Monday 1st April.


News from Arnaud Desbiez, RZSS Coordinator for Latin American, the first Brown Howler Monkey Conservation Workshop that aims to plan and undertake a population viability assessment is being held between the 24th and 29th March.


Since early 2005, a small group of biologists of the NGO Centro de Investigaciones del Bosque Atlántico (CeIBA) and of the Instituto de Biología Subtropical (IBS – sede Iguazú, Facultad de Ciencias Forestales, Univ. Nacional de Misiones) have undertaken comparative studies on distribution, behaviour and ecology of the small Argentinean population of brown howler monkey and the sympatric congener black and gold howlers in the Province of Misiones, in Northeastern Argentina.


In 2008 and 2009, severe yellow fever epidemics struck and decimated populations of both species, driving the already small population of brown howlers to the verge of extinction in Misiones. In order to establish conservation priorities for this species and its habitat in Argentina, it has become critical to assess the current brown howler population status, the main threats, and the potential management of alternatives that are most likely to be effective with the objective of preserving the species.


Approximately a dozen experts, including biologists and wildlife epidemiologists from Argentina and Brazil, are expected to attend the event. Along with other parties, RZSS is involved in the design and facilitation of the workshop and the production of final reports.


Still with RZSS, but much closer to home, Simon Girling, our Head of Veterinary Services – who is already a Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons recognised specialist in Zoo and Wildlife Medicine – has recently been awarded European Veterinary Specialist in Zoological Medicine (Zoo Health Management) status by the European College of Zoological Medicine. In addition to this, he has also been made a Fellow of the Society of Biology and recognised as a European Professional Biologist by the European Countries Biologists Association. Congratulations to Simon!


Finally, I particularly enjoyed Aubrey Manning’s centenary talk for members last night at Edinburgh Zoo. There were almost 100 members in attendance as he discussed our connection to animals throughout history, the importance of the emotional experience zoos can provide in fostering a passion for conservation from an early age and the negative impact humans are having on the environment. Thank you Aubrey for your tremendous talk!


Best wishes,




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