Chief Executive’s Blog

September 27, 2013 § Leave a comment


ScottishWildcat_EZ_13We have a lot of excellent conservation news this week. On Tuesday, Scottish Natural Heritage launched the Scottish Wildcat Conservation Action Plan, a six-year plan devised to save the Scottish wildcat from extinction. As one of the project’s partners, RZSS will be playing a very significant role in the Action Plan – our WildGenes laboratory will carry out genetic testing on wildcats to determine the extent of hybridisation, while the Highland Wildlife Park will be involved in a captive breeding programme with the aim of creating a reservoir of genetically pure wildcats to be re-released in the future. By 2019, the Plan aims to have secured five stable wildcat populations in the wild; have a better understanding of wildcat distribution, genetics and extent of hybridisation; created greater local awareness of the threats posed by both domestic and feral cats and the importance of responsible pet ownership; reduced the risk of accidental persecution of wildcats by landowners; and finally to have a better understanding of facts that affect wildcat numbers and how land management can benefit population viability.

Also, a recent ceremony took place at the Africam Safari zoo at Valsequillo, Mexico to celebrate the return of the Socorro Dove to Mexico. Although ex situ breeding programmes have been in place in zoos within Europe and the United States, up until this year there have been no Socorro doves in Mexico. Endemic to Socorro Island in the Revillagigedo Archipelago, last record of the species in its natural habitat dates from 1972 after introduced species drove it to extinction. As you may be aware, RZSS is involved in the conservation of the Socorro dove with Edinburgh Zoo breeding the species as part of the European Endangered Species Programme.

Photo by Alex Riddell

Photo by Alex Riddell

In news from the Highland Wildlife Park, we have had 40 British and American Military Engineer Reservists on site helping to construct a new pedestrian walkway through the front entrance reserve. The soldiers, from 71 Engineer Regiment and the South Dakota State National Guard, had only 10 days to construct the 150 metre walkway, which included manually installing 146 wooden posts that reached up to six metres tall. An official ceremony was held on Thursday to commemorate the completion of the work by the soldiers. During the ceremony Morag Sellar, Head Keeper and piper lead the 40 Reservists as they marched from the Visitor Centre to the new walkway where they were presented by a handcrafted basket sword, created by our very own blacksmith John Ramsay. The Park’s works team will now put the finishing touches on the walkway, which will open to the public by mid-November. It will allow walkers to have direct access into the Park without needing to arrive by car.

Finally, this week the city of Edinburgh has been hosting the annual European Association of Zoos and Aquaria conference, with around 750 delegates attending the four day event. Several RZSS staff were among the presenters at the conference, discussing a wide range of topics from the use of genetic information to assist re-introduction programmes, animal husbandry techniques, veterinary sciences and in situ conservation work. As part of the conference, Edinburgh Zoo held an opening evening for the delegates on Thursday evening and it was an immense pleasure to host so many experts from within the European zoo community.

“The question is whether any civilization can wage relentless war on life without destroying itself, and without losing the right to be called civilized.”
― Rachel Carson


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