Chief Executive’s Blog

March 7, 2014 § Leave a comment


Up at the Highland Wildlife Park, the wolverines Xale and Kirka are continuing to thrive in their new custom built enclosure and can usually be spotted charging around the 1.6 acres of hillside that it encompasses (as witnessed in this photograph, courtesy of Alex Riddell). We believe that this is the largest wolverine enclosure in Europe and quite possibly the world.

Xale by Alex Riddell

Xale by Alex Riddell

This week at Edinburgh Zoo we announced the birth of the Zoo’s first ever banteng calf, an excellent achievement as we have only held the animals for the past two years. The male, named Kala, is now four weeks old and doing very well. He can often be spotted cantering around in the large outdoor area of his enclosure, under the close watch of mother Leticia and father Tino. Although he is currently a beautiful golden colour like his mother, Kala (which means ‘black’) will gradually turn a very dark brown to match his father. Listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, banteng are native to South East Asia, with hunting and habitat loss as the two biggest threats to the species. They are very close to becoming locally extinct in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. His birth is a positive step in helping towards the conservation of these endangered animals as well as educating visitors about their plight.

Kala, Banteng calf by Katie Paton

Kala, Banteng calf by Katie Paton

Also at the Zoo this week, nest rings and pebbles were placed in Penguins Rock for the annual gentoo breeding season. Visitors and staff alike were treated to the rather amusing spectacle of the birds all racing to the nest rings in an attempt to claim the best ones first – there was even a few flipper slap fights between two feisty females! There is a sense of ritualism in the mating behaviours of gentoo penguins, with males selecting their perfect pebble to present to their desired mate. The pebbles are then used to build nests within the rings and there is often a fair bit of pebble stealing between the birds. Sometimes the birds will return to the same mate year after year, or may select a new mate each season. It is also common to have same sex pairings – last year we had both a male only pairing and female only pairing. Snowflake, our leucistic gentoo, is very popular in particular! During mating season drama can break out at any time, with displays of courtship and affection, as well as jealously and aggression.

Gentoos_race_for_nestrings_1_webIn an update from our conservation team, Arnaud Desbiez, Regional Coordinator for RZSS in Latin America, will be teaching a seminar at the ESCAS University in São Paulo Brazil on conservation decision making. Topics covered include conservation planning techniques, population viability analysis and how to apply and use the IUCN red listing criteria. Arnaud manages the Pantanal Giant Armadillo Project, which is the first long-term ecological study in the Brazilian Pantanal wetland.

Also on the topic of conservation, as part of celebrations for Fairtrade fortnight Edinburgh Zoo is holding Go Bananas for Fairtrade this Saturday 8th March from 11am until 3pm. The event will be held at the Budongo Trail where visitors will be able to watch our chimpanzees enjoy Fairtrade bananas kindly donated to us by Sainsbury’s Longstone as well as hear talks from two Nepalese Fairtrade producers about how they  make handmade paper from waste materials such as banana fibre, straw and recycled paper. They will also talk about why Fairtrade is important, not only to local communities, but also for the environment. The event is being run in partnership with the Edinburgh City Fairtrade Group, and this year, Fairtrade fortnight is focusing on the difficulties faced by banana growers. Over the past 10 years, prices of bananas in the UK have halved, while the cost of production has doubled – by purchasing Fairtrade bananas you are helping to ensure farmers receive a fair price for their work.

And finally I must welcome to the RZSS team Adam Naylor, who is our new veterinary resident for the European College of Zoological Medicine (Zoo Health Management). Adam was originally an intern at Bristol Zoo and he will be trained for three years by Simon Girling, Head of Veterinary Services for RZSS.

There is a sufficiency in the world for man’s need but not for man’s greed.

Mohandas K. Gandhi


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