Chief Executive’s Blog

August 1, 2014 § Leave a comment


Science summer school at HWP

Science summer school animal behaviour monitoring at HWP

Another successful Summer School finished up last week, however the busy summer period for the Discovery & Learning Department is still in full swing. This was the first week of two for the Science Summer School at Edinburgh Zoo, following on from two weeks at Highland Wildlife Park. The same programme structure is used at both locations, yet details are customised for each. The course revolves around two projects and is for young people aged 16 – 18 years old who have a keen interest in zoology.

The first is an investigative project where they are given a selection of three animals currently not in the collections and are asked to recommend which one animal would be the best suited addition by presenting their findings on the Friday. The project starts with a talk from the head of living collections who discusses the considerations made before introducing any new animals, then students jump straight onto computers and into books and commence their research.

Science Summer School - camera trap setting

Science Summer School – camera trap setting

The second project is a first step into animal research. Students attend talks and classes which allow them to gain practical experience in scientific fieldwork. They set night vision camera traps (apparently foxes, magpies and even badgers are our regular night time visitors) and even have a hands-on class with one of our veterinary surgeons who teaches how to perform basic suturing (albeit, on chicken fillets) and dissect a salmon. Observation of animal behaviour is another key component of this project, and the young people have the unique opportunity to study this first hand.

I always find it fantastic to see such enthusiasm from the students when they’re removed from the classroom environment and working independently out in the field – I often overhear them discussing observations and watch on as they scribble down notes, sometimes whilst even on their lunch breaks! It’s truly a great first leap into zoology.

14_6_27_rhea_Chick4At both Edinburgh Zoo and Highland Wildlife Park, we are all watching with delight as the first borns of this year’s summer breeding season grow up. The gentoo chicks are beginning to be moved to the penguin crèche where they can be seen learning to swim and dive, some with a bit more natural elegance than others. The two oldest Darwin’s rhea chicks moved to the orchard paddock this week and seem to be enjoying running round their huge new home, and the attention from living on the East Drive. The five otter pups are also getting braver and are beginning to be seen more often. At the Park, the baby Chinese goral has become more visible – like red deer calves, they initially stay hidden for the first 2 – 3 week before actively following their mother. The muskox calf and his mother have now been introduced to the bull and all three animals are now permanently kept together.

On the topic of births, a final note has to be mentioned about giant panda Tian Tian. As the coming weeks are critical for her – we predict this is when implantation could occur and pregnancy may begin – and in response to her sensitivity to noise, we endeavour to create the best environment for her by deciding to close the indoor show dens of the panda experience. Both pandas’ outdoor viewing areas will remain open during this time. I do apologise for any inconvenience caused, however trust you understand the decision. A full update can be found here

Our children may save us if they are taught to care properly for the planet; but if not, it may be back to the Ice Age or the caves from where we first emerged.  Then we’ll have to view the universe above from a cold, dark place. 

~Jimmy Buffet, Mother Earth News, March-April 1990

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