Chief Executive’s Blog

June 28, 2013 § Leave a comment


Our bird team at Edinburgh Zoo has managed to capture some rare footage of the female southern cassowary Sydney laying an egg, after surveillance were cameras placed in the birds’ nesting site when they started to show promising breeding behaviour

There are currently six eggs in the nest, which Billy the male is incubating. We’re not certain if successful mating took place or if the eggs are fertile, but we’re hugely encouraged by this enormous step forward in the breeding programme for this pair. Listed as Vulnerable, it’s been 27 years since we’ve had cassowary chicks at Edinburgh Zoo, although in 1986 we were the first collection in the UK to successfully breed southern cassowaries. Breeding this species is particularly difficult due to their highly aggressive nature, as cassowaries are renowned for their large, dagger-like claws and powerful high-kicks that can prove fatal.

Still at Edinburgh Zoo, for four weeks following Monday 1st July our very popular Summer School begins. This year the theme is celebrating 100 years of Edinburgh Zoo and we have 100 children aged six to 14 years old attending each week. The children are split into four age groups and enjoy lots of different actives onsite – including animal handling, trails, games, making enrichment, storytelling and arts and crafts. The older children also get involved in animal observation and look at aspects of enclosure design.

sandzooMonday 1st July sees the delivery of 90 tonnes of sand to the Zoo. To celebrate the 100th birthday a huge sand sculpture and a beach in the city are being created. Sponsored by Thomson Holidays, the Sand Zoo will measure a gigantic seven by four metres at the base and be three and a half metres high. The fantastic beach on our lawn outside the Mansion House will be 12 by 12 metres and be complete with deck chairs, parasols and buckets and spades. Our Sand Zoo is being created by an amazing company called Sand in Your Eye – to get an idea of how incredible our sculpture is going to look have a look at their gallery of previous creations http://www.sandsculptureice.co.uk/sand_sculpture_gallery.html

Finally, onto panda breeding…we were pleased this week when our PR team won an industry award for Innovation and Integration regarding the panda breeding season. The world’s spotlight turns on us each year during the breeding window and its great recognition for us. Still with pandas and breeding, you may have seen reports that we suspect Tian Tian might be pregnant. I just wanted to clear up that it is still too early to tell at this stage and any suggestion that the female panda is pregnant is pure hopeful speculation. We may not know for a good few weeks yet. We are only eight weeks post artificial insemination at the moment and we have not detected a second rise in progesterone in Tian Tian yet. This second hormone rise will then either indicate pseudo pregnancy or a real pregnancy, and if real, then confirms we are 40 to 50 days from a potential birth. Pandas also show nesting behaviour whether they are pregnant or not. As soon as we know either way we will let everyone know the outcome, until then we wait in suspense alongside everyone else. A cub would be amazing for the overall conservation effort and for visitors to Edinburgh Zoo.

Best wishes,

Chris West

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