Chief Executive’s Blog

June 20, 2013 § Leave a comment

Hello. This week I want to go straight back to the Highland Wildlife Park as we know much more about our recent spate of births. We’ve been able to confirm that Elara the European grey wolf has three cubs, not two as we first suspected, and we actually have two northern lynx kittens, again one more than first thought. All great news! All are still are in their respective mothers’ dens and it will be a couple of weeks yet before they start to become visible.


Wolverine, Kirka by Alex Riddell

Since last week the Park has also seen the arrival of a capercaillie chick and our pair of wolverines that recently moved up from Edinburgh Zoo to the Highlands has also been spotted mating. The pair now live together 24/7 in their new large enclosure at the Park and if there was ever a confirmation that the animals are settled into their new home, it is this.

As for the other carnivores in the Highlands that could breed: the wildcats were introduced later than usual, and as mating has been observed we are reasonably confident that we will have kittens; due to the rather more delicate nature of the Pallas’ cats, we are currently managing them in a hands-off way, plus our female seems to have a rather more variable birth season than would be expected; and lastly the Arctic fox female is keeping a very low profile, spending most of her time of late in the extensive and complex burrow system that she has excavated, so it is a matter of waiting to see what happens.

Still at the Park, our event for adopters and members last Friday evening was a huge success.

The Scottish Beaver Trial, our joint conservation project with the Scottish Wildlife Trust, has been shortlisted in the RSPB ‘Nature of Scotland Awards’. These are designed to recognise and celebrate excellence, innovation and outstanding achievement in Scottish nature conservation, so we are very honoured to be nominated.

Our vets and conservation team also carried out a water vole pre-release health survey over last weekend. Approximately 100 individuals were surveyed at a facility in Devon and are due to be released in South Downs National Park, Hampshire.


Spiny puddle frog

The RZSS support for monitoring of rare amphibians in Cameroon continues at Lake Oku, where scientists have been attempting to collect live specimens of caecilians to study their unknown reproductive biology. This is part of a wider monitoring programme conducted by Thomas Doherty-Bone which aims to assess the conservation status of amphibian species in the region.

Slightly closer to home, the RZSS conservation team has been looking at alternative ways of managing large captive populations. Dr Rob Ogden presented at a meeting organised by the Smithsonian Institute on the subject of different breeding strategies for the conservation of herd species such as scimitar – horned oryx, addax and dama gazelle. At present European and American populations are managed according to individual breeding recommendations that try to control every mating pair in captivity. While this may maximise the amount of genetic diversity retained in the population, it does not represent a natural breeding scenario. Research is underway to assess whether less intensive management of herds can deliver comparable genetic conservation and at the same time mirror natural mating systems.

Best wishes,

Chris West


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