Chief Executives Blog

April 5, 2013 § Leave a comment

On bank holiday Monday I took the opportunity to pay one of my regular visits to the Highland Wildlife Park and it was wonderful to see the Park and its inhabitants in the sunshine!

It was exciting to see the final parts of the new wolverine exhibit coming together. The main section is now complete and also a raised, glass fronted viewing platform that looks out onto a large pond in the enclosure.


Last year we experienced a record number of animal births at the Park, which we hope to see again this year, but one new and promising development is that our female musk ox is looking rotund in all the right places. Bad-tempered, aggressive, quick and very strong, it’s incredible to think that this prehistoric mammal outlived the woolly mammoth. With an eight month gestation period, calving tends to be between April to June and the females get even more aggressive when they have youngsters. Our musk ox arrived in the Highlands last year and it was the first time in 24 years that visitors had been able to see them in the UK

Still at the Park, the new female satyr and Temminck’s tragopans are very settled in their quarantine quarters and are about half-way through the required period. In the meantime, the male satyr’s brightly coloured throat patch is now visible and the male Temminck’s is making some very peculiar vocalisations, both strong indications that we are running up to the breeding season.

ImageIn light of the poor results we had with our capercaillie last year, which was at least in part weather related, we have made a number of key changes that will hopefully improve our chances this year. Rachel Williams, who is our primary bird keeper, spent one week training at John Corder’s facility near Bristol. John is a key member of the World Pheasant Association and the Park has worked with him on a couple of projects, including the recent pre-export quarantine of the tragopans that were sent to India. We have also changed the substrate and created much more bad weather cover in the aviary the female prefers to rear her young in.

CBBC also visited the Park earlier this week to discuss the prospect of filming one of the episodes of a new live children’s series there during the summer. They’re particularly interested in our location within the Cairngorm National Park and our native species collection.

Easter and the school holidays have been and continue to be a huge success at both the Highland Wildlife Park and Edinburgh Zoo, with high visitor numbers and both Parks packed with families enjoying the scenery and the animals living in our collections.

At Edinburgh Zoo our education team are currently recruiting more volunteers; the application deadline is 15th April. So if you think can spare some of your time to work within the beautiful setting of Edinburgh Zoo, please visit the volunteering page of the website for further information

In our restaurants at the Zoo we have also recently started the Food for Life accreditation, more information will follow, but if successful we will be the first Zoo in the UK to be accredited with this.

Our gardens team in Edinburgh are about to start work on a commemorative centenary rose garden located on the lower lawn outside of the Mansion House. The design for the garden was chosen from several options that were submitted by the Zoo’s 13 strong gardening team. The winning design by staff member Barry Fraser, who has worked with the Zoo for 17 years, is based on the layout of the actual Mansion House exterior and reflects and follows the building’s ramparts. It will be a classic rose garden and draws on aspects of the Zoo’s heritage and gives nods to key people in its history: including Thomas H. Gillespie, Alice Gair, Professor Patrick Geddes and Sir Frank Mears.

While work will commence this week on the garden, it will be a while yet before visitors will see it take shape, with an estimated completion date for November this year. Once completed, visitors will be able to walk along the garden’s lawn path or sit on benches in the centre.

Finally, we are now selling raffle tickets at the front reception/till points of Edinburgh Zoo and at key times we will have staff and volunteers wandering around Penguins Rock with tickets so if you want a chance to win a brand new Citroen DS3, buy a ticket!  It’s only £1 per raffle and money raised will go towards our penguin conservation work.


Best wishes,




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