Chief Executive’s Blog

July 18, 2014 § Leave a comment

Well Edinburgh Zoo is just finishing week three of Summer School, with one more week to go. Summer School is one of our Discovery & Learning team’s busiest times of the year and we are extremely proud of what we can offer children during the school break.

Down in the Jungle was this year’s theme, we have a new one each year, and the team has done an amazing job of decorating our Discovery & Learning building to look the part. A local studying artist has created a detailed animal mural to adorn the entrance way and the corridors are done up to look like the youngsters are walking through jungle terrain.

14_07_18_SummerSchool_DoorMural_kp_smlEach year we have 400 places across four weeks (100 slots per week) for children aged six to 15. Divided into four different age groups, children learn about the natural world in a fun and interactive way with our education officers. Summer School activities include animal handling, drama, games, arts and crafts, scavenger hunts, storytelling and more. The older children will spend time learning about animals, enclosure design and do more in-depth learning.

Each age group will get the chance to create an enrichment device for an animal. A bit like a toy, the enrichment is for the animal to essentially ‘play’ with and offers them a variety of stimulation. Here are some of our jungle themed enrichment devices made by some of our different age groups.

14_07_18_SummerSchool_enrichment_kpHere’s a quick link to one of our senior education officers at RZSS explained more about one of our previous Summer Schools with a Down Under theme

RZSS has also just completed our first offering of a new education programme called ZEST CWR (running 5 May to 10 July). The course was opened up to young people (17-21yrs) across Scotland and launched by Angela Constance MSP and Cabinet Secretary for Training, Youth and Women’s Employment. By working in partnership with Skills Development Scotland we designed the programme for candidates that were not currently in education, employment or training (NEET’s). The adapted ZEST programme offered six places at Edinburgh Zoo, as well as two places at the Highland Wildlife Park. All participants had the opportunity to achieve the Skills Development Scotland’s Certificate of Work Readiness (CWR).

Also at Edinburgh Zoo this week, a very colourful Mindanao bleeding heart dove has arrived in Brilliant Birds and we shortly hope to find it a mate. Dillon the three banded armadillo has moved into Brilliant Birds too; he has a large open enclosure in the corner of the attraction. A really popular individual, Dillon has been with us for some years taking part in animal handling sessions and the hilltop shows; however this is the first time he’s been on public display. Very lively, you are likely to see him scurrying around and exploring his environment.

Still with the Zoo, our rockhopper penguins are now back in the main enclosure – some of you may know they go up to an enclosure further up the hill for breeding season as the birds have previously bred very successfully at this location. The ten new gentoo penguin chicks from this year’s breeding season will shortly go into the penguin crèche away from their parents to learn skills like independent feeding, swimming and grooming.

Flamingo_nest_1In some mixed news, there was a Chilean flamingo egg laid one morning, but unfortunately the birds accidently cracked it by the afternoon. This is actually still a really encouraging sign and we are hopeful for more eggs. Breeding season for the Zoo’s 34 Chilean flamingos started in late spring when the bird keepers built “mud pie” nests to help stimulate courtship behaviour, such as head flagging, wing saluting, vocalising and aggression between competing males. Around 25 nests were created, each ranging in shape and size. In case you are passing the enclosure to the right of the main entrance and spot two eggs sitting rather proudly on top of two mud pie nests right now, they are actually fake and are just there to offer the birds encouragement! We hope to have more of the real thing shortly.

Finally onto staff news, two of our trainee keepers are now fully qualified as zoo keepers. RZSS has a 99.99% success rate that we are extremely proud off. Come September another seven trainee keepers start their course, so we wish them the best of luck. Michael Livingstone, one of our panda keepers, is also off to China next week to the Bifengxia Panda Reserve to work with pregnant pandas and cubs. This is the first trip to China for Michael, with his panda colleagues visiting last year. I hope to be able to share some of his experiences and photos from his trip with you here.


The gross heathenism of civilization has generally destroyed nature, and poetry, and all that is spiritual

~John Muir, letter to J.B. McChesney, 19 September 1871



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