Chief Executives Blog

September 20, 2013 § Leave a comment


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Our female Koala, Alinga

Hello,

I am pleased to announce the very exciting arrival of the UK’s first ever koala joey. Alinga, our female koala, only arrived at Edinburgh Zoo in February this year before being introduced to Goonaroo, one of our male koalas, in April. Although keepers believe the joey was born around mid-May, joeys are very underdeveloped when first born and measuring only 2cm long, look more akin to a jelly bean than a koala. Joeys then spend a further six months tucked up inside their mother’s pouch and only start to emerge once fully developed.

As this is Alinga’s first pregnancy, keepers wanted to keep a close eye on her progress before announcing the arrival of her joey. At the moment the joey still cannot be seen – we expect it to begin emerging from the pouch around mid-October, when it will start to cling to Alinga’s underside. Around Christmas-time it will then move onto her back, which is when the keepers will weigh it for the first time and determine its sex.

Earlier this week, Edinburgh Zoo hosted three global giant panda ambassadors, or “pambassadors” who spoke to members as well as students from Lasswade and Queen Anne high schools about their experiences following their time at Chengdu Panda Base in China. The Pambassadors, Chen Yinrong, Jerome Pouille and Melissa Rose Katz, were selected last year for this very prestigious role from more than one million applicants. As part of their one-year pambassadorial role the trio is taking part in a global tour with the aim of raising awareness about giant panda conservation. So far they have visited Hong Kong, Singapore, Washington DC and Atlanta; their next stop after Edinburgh is Paris.

Up at the Highland Wildlife Park, keepers have managed to sex the Przewalski’s foal born last week as male and have named him Saqi. Saqi is proving to be a very strong, robust little fellow! The Park also said farewell to Orc, last year’s European elk calf, on Wednesday. Orc is headed for his new home at Wildwood in Kent and the Park will shortly be receiving two female elk from Alladale Wilderness Reserve. These movements are part of a coordinated effort to manage breeding and genetic diversity among elk populations within Britain.

In an update from the RZSS Conservation department, Dr Rob Ogden, Head of Conservation Science, is in Berlin this week for the 9th International Conference on Behaviour, Physiology and Genetics of Wildlife. He will be giving a talk on the department’s work on beaver genetics as well as delivering a workshop on conservation genetics.  The aim of this conference is to foster an exchange of ideas between wildlife scientists from different disciplines with an interest in both wild and captive animals, with a focus on mammalian species.

Also, next week the city of Edinburgh will be hosting the annual EAZA conference at which several RZZS staff will be presenting. Dr Arnaud Desbiez, Regional Coordinator (Latin America) for RZSS Research and Conservation will be presenting his latest work with the Giant Armadillo Project, which is the world’s first long-term ecological study of giant armadillos. Dr Helen Senn, Research Scientist for RZSS, will be talking about using genetic information to help with reintroductions with the RZSS’s work with Arabian and scimitar-horned oryx as examples. And Rob will be discussing important developments in genetics and its uses with European Studbook management. Although this conference is closed to outside visitors, it is an excellent opportunity for RZSS to promote its work within conservation and science.

Finally, our Discovery & Learning Department has launched its Beyond the Panda school outreach programme. The programme is aimed at students at primary levels 5-7 and raises awareness about giant pandas, the history of China and the importance of taking action to save species from extinction. For this programme, RZSS has partnered with the Scotland China Education Network, the Confucius Institute for Scotland, the Confucius Institute for Scotland’s Schools and Confucius Hubs. Sessions have already taken place in schools in Aberdeenshire and Edinburgh with more booked in around Glasgow, Angus, Argyll & Bute and the Shetland Islands.

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” 
– John Muir

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