Chief Executive’s Blog

March 28, 2014 § Leave a comment

Good afternoon

As we are about to move into April, I thought it might be about time for a giant panda breeding season update. As you may know, earlier this year we again began to collect urine samples from Tian Tian to analyse for two key hormones – progesterone and oestrogen. We’re currently just waiting for the all-important crossover of hormones in Tian Tian and then when this happens it means breeding is roughly seven to 14 days away. This week we moved to analysing Tian Tian’s urine samples each day, so it’s a case of watch and wait.

Students from Middleton Park School, Aberdeenshire, paid a celebratory visit to see the giant pandas this week after winning a schools’ competition organised by our Discovery and Learning team. The Beyond the Panda education outreach programme, which received funding from Jaguar Land Rover (China), ran in partnership with RZSS and the Confucius Institute for Scotland’s Schools (CISS), and involved primary students from schools across Scotland who are studying China as part of their curriculum. The students were challenged with creating a short story surrounding anything they had learnt about China, Chinese culture or giant pandas.

Middleton Primary School

Middleton Park School

Middleton Park School’s winning entry, created by its Primary 5 students, was a video called ‘From Aberdeen to China! Our learning journey exploring China’, which detailed the different ways the students learnt about China and its culture. It tied with an entry from Primary 5 students at Oakbank Primary School, Perth, which was a story called ‘The Panda with No Patches’. The winning entries will be translated into both Gaelic and Chinese and presented to the Chinese Consulate in Edinburgh.

We look forward to meeting Oakbank Primary School in May when they visit Edinburgh Zoo as part of their prize.

A young buff-checked gibbon at Edinburgh Zoo was the centre of attention this week. Now old enough to be away from the mother, the as yet unsexed youngster performed acrobatic swings across the enclosure for press photographers. Quite a bold character, its still golden hair made it quite easy to spot.

Photo by Katie Paton

Photo by Katie Paton

We have a very lively troop of six buff-cheeked gibbons at Edinburgh Zoo. Seventeen-year-old Lucy is the head of the troop; she arrived at the Zoo in September 2004 with her daughter Lea. Her partner Jon arrived six months later and they have had three offspring – seven-year-old Cheeky, three-year-old Lloyd and the newest youngster.

Baby gibbons are born blonde to blend into their mother’s hair and later turn black. Males then remain black throughout their lives, with the distinguishing golden cheeks that give the species their name. Females, however, then turn back to blonde at sexual maturity, and only have a black cap of hair on the top of their heads.

This week our conservation scientists Dr Helen Senn and Dr Rob Ogden are in Bodrum, Turkey. A project meeting funded by the European Union, the meeting is to evaluate the genetic input of the growing fish-farming industry on native fish in the Mediterranean.

Finally, I’m delighted to tell you that our members’ magazine, LifeLinks, has won a top award at the 2014 Institute of Internal Communications Scottish Awards. The magazine took home the Best Stakeholder Printed Publication. The 20-page online and print magazine is only available to members of RZSS and is produced three times a year. Content includes news, event listings and in-depth features on conservation and animals, as well as a dedicated page for children. For further information please visit

Best wishes,

Chris West

“I conceive that the land belongs to a vast family of which many are dead, few are living, and countless numbers are still unborn.”

Author Unknown


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