Chief Executive’s Blog
October 25, 2013 § Leave a comment
This week has certainly been an exciting one for both Edinburgh Zoo and the Highland Wildlife Park. On Wednesday, Edinburgh Zoo reopened the African hunting dog walkway, allowing visitors to see our hunting dog puppy! The pup was born to Jet, the pack’s non-dominant female, and is fitting in really well with the other dogs. Despite its small size, it has bundles of attitude and keepers often spot it tugging around joints of meat twice its size. In two weeks, the pup will have its first check-up and be sexed, but the keepers won’t name it until its colourful markings have come through.
We have four adult dogs in our pack – Blade the dominant male, Flash the dominant female, Two Socks the lower male and Jet. Although the dominant female is usually the one to have pups, it is not uncommon for a lower-ranking female to give birth. In these cases, the dominant female often cares for the other dog’s pups as if they were her own, which is something we have seen happening with our little pup. At the moment the pup is still spending most of its time indoors but if visitors are patient and quiet, especially during feeding time, they should catch a glimpse.
Also at the Zoo, giant panda viewing slots have returned to normal and the panda cam is back online. While the enclosure has been closed, the keepers have taken the opportunity to do a few renovations, which included installing two brand new hammocks. The hammocks have been made from old fire hoses weaved together and have been very well received by our pandas. We managed to catch fantastic footage of Tian Tian playing on hers earlier in the week and she seems to be having an absolute ball!
Up at the Highland Wildlife Park, this season’s two Scottish wildcat kittens were sexed and are both female. Keepers have named the pair Ness and Einich, keeping with the tradition to name kittens born at the Park after Scottish lochs. Ness and Einich have become very bold and can easily be spotted wrestling each other and climbing their enclosure. The Highland Wildlife Park has a long history of successfully breeding Scottish wildcats and will play an important role in the conservation breeding programme as part of the Scottish Wildcat Conservation Action Plan.
In conservation news, the Giant Armadillo Project, which is led by Dr Arnaud Desbiez, the RZSS Regional Coordinator for Latin America, has recently unearthed this mysterious creature’s role as ecosystem engineers. Giant armadillos regularly dig deep burrows, which researchers have discovered provide new habitats and influence resources for many other animals. Using camera traps in the Brazilian Pantanal, the project has photographed over 24 different species using giant armadillo burrows (one pictured below) as either a thermal refuge, shelter against predators, feeding ground or resting spot. The role of this poorly known species as an ecosystem engineer may be of high value to the community of vertebrates in the Pantanal and other regions in its extensive range.
Giant Armadillos are so enigmatic, that it was only two years ago that the first ever photograph of one was taken, followed by the successful shot of a giant armadillo young captured earlier this year for the very first time by an automated camera trap. Since July 2010, the Pantanal Giant Armadillo Project has successfully established a long-term ecological study of giant armadillos at the Baía das Pedras Ranch in the Nhecolândia sub-region of the Brazilian Pantanal (visit giantarmadillo.org.br). The main goal of the project is to investigate the ecology and biology of the species and understand its function in the ecosystem using radio transmitters, camera traps, burrow surveys, resource monitoring, resource mapping and interviews.
Finally, with Christmas just around the corner, we will be holding a special Christmas Shopping Night at Edinburgh Zoo on Thursday 28th November, from 5pm until 8pm. During this evening event, held at the Zoo’s gift shop, visitors will receive up to 25 per cent off selected products. With stocking fillers like cuddly toys and panda jewellery, we have something for everyone. There will also be free mulled wine and mince pies for your enjoyment and a raffle to win a £100 goody hamper full of Edinburgh Zoo goodies. There will be free entry and free parking with this event and booking is not necessary.