Chief Executive’s Blog

February 14, 2014 § Leave a comment


This week RZSS conservation staff attended the UK’s Government’s Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference, which was hosted by Prime Minister David Cameron. His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales was also in attendance, as well as senior government representatives from over 50 countries, with the purpose of spurring action to combat the growing threat to endangered wildlife and producing new and improved multi-lateral agreements to combat the illegal trade.

Stef_WW_ele_sampleDuring the conference, the Gabonese president Ali Bongo Ondimba unveiled a new initiative aimed at helping to curb the poaching of African elephants for their ivory which utilises the genetic and forensic expertise from the RZSS and TRACE Wildlife Forensic Network.

Elephant poaching is on the increase in Africa as demand for ivory increases in some Asian countries. Statistics show that 96 elephants were killed every single day in 2012 and in 2013 large scale ivory movements were 20% higher than the previous peak in 2011. As part of this new initiative, bone and tissue fragments from elephant carcasses killed by poachers will be recovered and forensic DNA techniques utilised to produce unique profiles for subsequent matching against blood stained clothing or ivory recovered locally or in Asia.

I am delighted that RZSS will be involved in a project which bridges the gap between conservation genetics and wildlife DNA forensics, enabling the Gabon authorities to understand elephant population structure in its National Parks and apply this information to the fight against poaching.

In some light-hearted news from Edinburgh Zoo, the giant pandas are proving to be a real favourite with couples looking to have a more unusual setting for their marriage proposals. Tony Bradford, Visitor Experience Coordinator for Edinburgh Zoo, has helped arrange 35 proposal announcements at the panda enclosure since their arrival! The Zoo’s penguins also occasionally witness a marriage proposal. Edinburgh Zoo’s historic Mansion House is also a popular choice for weddings, with 27 already booked in for this year.

Lynx by Jan Morse

Lynx by Jan Morse

Keeping with the romantic theme, Highland Wildlife Park’s adult lynx pair Switch and Dimma received some Valentine’s Day enrichment from keepers. The pair have proven to be excellent mates and have successfully raised a litter each year since arriving at the Park in 2012. As their first litter was born only months after their arrival, the quick success is testament to how relaxed they are at the Park as well as the keepers’ animal husbandry experience.

Finally, Highland Wildlife Park is seeking 10 eager people for its new volunteer programme, the first of its kind in the Park’s 42 year history. The programme forms part of the Highland Wildlife Park Redevelopment Plan, which has received over £50,000 in funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. They’re looking for people who have an interest in conservation and wildlife and who want to gain new experiences while assisting in a range of areas across the Park. This includes acting as guides, meeting and greeting visitors, helping with the horticultural upkeep of the Park’s public areas and assisting in our shop and café. People interested in applying for a volunteer position can do so by downloading our Volunteer Application Form from, or in writing to Visitor Services, Highland Wildlife Park, Kincraig, Kingussie PH21 1NL with applications closing 28th February.

The activist is not the man who says the river is dirty.  The activist is the man who cleans up the river. 

– Ross Perot


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