Chief Executive’s Blog

June 27, 2014 § Leave a comment


Recently we have been celebrating the arrival of a number of young animals; here I wanted to tell you about two of these births in particular.

14_5_8_Darwins_Rhea_Chicks_4I am delighted to announce the birth of nine Darwin’s rhea chicks this year at Edinburgh Zoo. Their arrival, and the fact the chicks are thriving, is a great achievement for our bird team as Darwin’s rhea chicks are by no means straightforward. To put the achievement into context, we had hopes we might be able to successful rear ONE chick – so NINE is an absolutely delightful and unexpected problem to have.

So far the chicks are growing fast and are going from strength to strength. They are doing so well in-fact, that the two oldest are now on show near to the monkey house.

Bird keeper Emily by Maria Dorrian

Bird keeper Emily by Maria Dorrian

Keepers have had their hands full raising the chicks, which are fast running and full of energy. The largest chicks weigh around a third of the adults now, but actually eat the same amount already. Out of the nine, the oldest pair are two months old, the middle three are around a month old and the youngest four were born just over a week ago.

Edinburgh Zoo has been home to Darwin’s rhea since 2007, with our current adult pair, Evita and Ramon, arriving more recently. A popular attraction with our visitors, the birds can stand at an impressive 35 to 39 inches and can move at speeds of up to 37 miles per hour – although we do not see quite those speeds on their Costorphine hill paddock!

The South American birds are classified as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List and these chicks are a very positive step towards the overall survival of the species; they will go on to become part of an overarching coordinated breeding programme.

Another significant birth has taken place at Highland Wildlife Park. We are happy to welcome a male muskox calf to the collection. The male calf is yet to be named, but is growing quickly in size and strength.

Muskox calf by Alex Riddell

Muskox calf by Alex Riddell

We welcome a female muskox calf named Belle last year, but she sadly passed away at five months old due to an injury sustained by one of her parents.

Muskox are very difficult to raise and have a high neonatal mortality rate due to their weak immune system and also parental aggression; there is still a long way to go before the calf will venture from his off show enclosure or be on display to our visitors to the Park.

Muskox actually require specially adapted enclosures due to their size and aggressive nature. The species have been successfully brought back from the brink of extinction and are now classified as of Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, however this birth signifies what could be a big development in captive muskox breeding here in the UK, with the last surviving musk-ox calf born in 1992.

We are very proud of our achievements. These breeding successes are testament to our keeper’s dedication and expertise.


As we watch the sun go down, evening after evening, through the smog across the poisoned waters of our native earth, we must ask ourselves seriously whether we really wish some future universal historian on another planet to say about us: 

“With all their genius and with all their skill, they ran out of foresight and air and food and water and ideas,” or, “They went on playing politics until their world collapsed around them.” 

~U Thant, speech, 1970


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