Chief Executive’s Blog

December 20, 2013 § Leave a comment

Good afternoon,

Photo by Alex Riddell

Photo by Alex Riddell

Marty our Amur tiger at the Highland Wildlife Park had a trip to the dentist yesterday for root canal treatment to one of his teeth. What would normally be a fairly straightforward procedure in a human, of course becomes much more complex due to his sheer size of 187kg! A problem for big carnivores like tigers and polar bears, the pulp layer of the tooth is only a couple of millimetres under the surface of the outer tooth, so even chipping a tiny bit of tooth off can cause problems as the pulp underneath can decay and die. It took six keepers to carry Marty after he was anaesthetised and the procedure took place in the tigers’ indoor show den. The veterinary team started by cleaning away all the dead tissue from Marty’s chipped lower right canine, then a special type of rubber that solidifies was used to repair the gap. Afterwards I’ve been told Marty came round quite quickly and will now be separated from the others and fed soft chunks of meat for the next few days.

At Edinburgh Zoo giant pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang are about to receive their one millionth visitor and we are obviously delighted. Two years on from their arrival on Scottish shores, our pandas have captured the hearts and imaginations of people throughout the UK and around the world and, as a flagship species, they highlight other crucial conservation work and are invaluable educational ambassadors.


Rotana with his Christmas stocking

Last week I wrote about the value of enrichment for our animals and touched on keepers enjoying the annual opportunity to offer animals Christmas themed goodies. Well this morning saw sun bear brothers Somnang and Rotana at Edinburgh Zoo enjoy papier-mâché Christmas stockings with their favourite foods and also giant Christmas crackers packed with scented hay, perfect for rummaging through. The bears loved searching for enrichment hidden in their enclosure and with an acute sense of smell were pretty quick to sniff the Christmas boxes out. Also adept at climbing trees, they were able to speedily seek out boxes placed up high too. Many of you will know their story, but the brothers are thought to be around 10 years old and were rescued from the illegal pet trade in 2004 by the charity Free the Bears and arrived at Edinburgh Zoo in 2010.

Snow monkeys by Jan Morse

Snow monkeys by Jan Morse

Earlier in the week the UK’s only troop of snow monkeys got a similar surprise at the Highland Wildlife Park. Treated to tomatoes hung like baubles from Christmas trees in their enclosure, the monkeys used plenty of natural behaviours like foraging and problem solving to seek out the edible decorations. A hugely inquisitive species, the adults and youngsters tucked in with gusto – just as we would with our Christmas dinner!

Lastly, I want to tell you about a new enclosure we will start work on in early January. More details to follow in the New Year, but we will be developing a brand new meerkat enclosure where the old sealion pool currently is. Meerkats first returned to Edinburgh Zoo a few years ago and we have a family of the species behind the mansion house. Hugely popular, we’re delighted to be able to offer a bigger and better enclosure at the forefront of the Zoo. The location of the work means that the Zoo’s Hilltop Safari which takes visitors to the top of the park will be decommissioned, as this is where visitors’ board and the normal route will be inaccessible, however we are excited to announce the arrival of a special mobility vehicle gifted by Allied Mobility. Whereas the Hilltop Safari was only able to stick to a set route, our new vehicle will allow us to take and pick up mobility impaired visitors and their guests to and from most areas of the park. This new service will be offered by our existing drivers who will still provide commentary to visitors using the vehicle.

Seasonal greetings once again,


“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin”

William Shakespeare‘s Troilus and Cressida


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