Chief Executive’s Blog

April 19, 2013 § Leave a comment

This week it seems appropriate to start with our giant pandas at Edinburgh Zoo, which have been dominating media headlines all week.

Tian Tian our female is approaching breeding season, but has been keeping us waiting and guessing for the last few days. Her 36 hour breeding window has yet to arrive, but we are continuing to monitor her hormone levels and behaviour several times a day; she is very close, but just not quite there. We had thought it would all be over and done with by now, but giant panda breeding is never simple…each panda differs from one to the other and even individual pandas behave differently one year to the next! Our Chinese colleague Professor Wang who is over in Edinburgh at the moment thinks the colder weather may have slowed her oestrogen increase down a little, meaning that she is approaching the 36 hour breeding window slower this year than last.

We look forward to seeing what the weekend brings with our giant pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang. Our excellent team is doing all they can and I know this has been a rollercoaster week for them all so far.

Onto other news, this week and next our Discovery & Learning department is carrying out informal interviews for new volunteers at Edinburgh Zoo. Our volunteers are a very important part of the Zoo team, not only supporting our visitor engagement and education work, but also fundraising, promoting the Society and supporting work in other areas. The department will also be running a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programme for teachers on Friday 26th April that focuses on primates, science and our onsite LivingLinks research centre.

This week saw the delivery of a terrific collaboration with Edinburgh College come to fruition. We tasked their HND Graphic Design students with a brief to come up with an idea to develop a campaign that would attract 18-35 year olds to the Zoo – and to present their findings within a week to a panel comprising zoo staff and their lecturers! The results were truly inspiring and we are hoping to carry on talking with some of the students now that the project is over as we were so taken with their ideas.

Up at the Highland Wildlife Park the young takin that broke his leg had his first check-up last week, as it has been four weeks since the cast was put on. Because he is a growing youngster, our animal experts need to be careful that the cast does not become too tight and hamper his circulation. As it turned out, all was fine and the cast will be removed at the six week point.

The last major stage of the wolverine enclosure construction has been completed, with the stringing of just over four miles of electric fencing cable inside the enclosure perimeter fence; the whole area is just over 1.6 acres, which may make it the world’s largest wolverine enclosure. There is still some testing and tweaking to do, but we are confident we will have wolverines living at the Highland Wildlife Park by the end of April.

Also, because our male European beaver at the Park has opted for an almost exclusively nocturnal lifestyle, which is not unusual for the species, we have positioned a camera trap to help us ensure that he is still active and healthy. The images we get with be posted at the enclosure for our visitors. We are currently sourcing a female for him, probably from Sweden, and when we get back into breeding mode with active youngsters, the beavers should revert to being somewhat more visible than our boy currently is.

Finally, almost all of the adult male deer at the Highland Wildlife Park have now dropped their antlers, with the exception of the male white-lipped stag who seems determined to hang on to his as long as possible.

More next week…

Best wishes,



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