Chief Executive’s Blog

December 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

This week we entered December and a thin layer of frost was seen at both Edinburgh Zoo and Highland Wildlife Park for the first time this winter. This turn in weather should signal to the red deer at Highland Wildlife Park that the end of the rutting season is near; a clear winning male has yet to be sighted in the herd.

Baby armadillo Rica

Baby armadillo Rica

Christmas came early this week for little Rica, the young three-banded armadillo at Edinburgh Zoo. On Monday she was delivered her first ever present by People’s Postcode Lottery – a smelly box of mealworms and ants which she immediately got her claws into.

The start of the festive season is also being celebrated online this week with our 12 Days of Christmas Facebook competition which is running until Monday 8 December. It’s a simple sweepstake competition where participants enter their email address in the designated box on the Facebook page to be in with a chance to win a wild prize every day. Winners will be picked out of a virtual Santa hat at random.

Our second Christmas Shopping Night will be held on Wednesday 10 December. As with the night a couple of weeks back, there will be exclusive discounts and the opportunity to meet Santa. Additional festive cheer will ring through the gift shop as the junior school choir from St George’s School for Girls will sing Christmas carols whilst you shop. Mulled wine and food for tasting will also be of plenty. More information at:

On Thursday, the students of RZSS’ Zoo and Environment Skills Training (ZEST) programme for this academic year took part in an enrichment day. If you are not familiar with the ZEST programme, it is a vocational opportunity for students aged 15-17 to undertake work experience across various departments in RZSS including gardens, discovery and learning, communications, fundraising, visitor services and working with the keepers. At the end of the eight month course successful students gain a recognised SQA (Scottish Qualifications Authority) qualification. All students enrolled in the ZEST programme this year were invited to spend time with members of the Zoo’s enrichment group where they were able to discover more about how enrichment is used at Edinburgh Zoo whilst making their own devices for animals such as sun bears, capuchin monkeys and Oriental short-clawed otters. For example, the students who were focussing on the otters carved out apples and turnips which they then stuffed with mice, nuts and apples. Keepers put these devices in the enclosure whilst the ZEST students stood with their clipboards and observed and monitored the behaviours displayed.

ZEST students on Enrichment Day

ZEST students on Enrichment Day

Dr Arnaud Desbiez, Latin America Coordinator for RZSS, went back out into the field on Tuesday as part of the regular expeditions of the RZSS Giant Armadillo Project. I’m sure you all read in my blog last week about how Arnaud has been observing Alex, the 17 month old giant armadillo, still sharing his mother’s territory– it was previously believed that young armadillos disperse from their mothers at six weeks of age. During the last expedition, Alex and his mother were sighted still sleeping together in the same burrow and have been caught playing together many times on the camera traps. It will be interesting to hear back from Arnaud when he returns in a few weeks to find out if Alex and his mother are still together.

photo by Arnaud Desbiez

photo by Arnaud Desbiez

In my blog last week I spoke about the publication of the independent scientific reports for the Scottish Beaver Trial (SBT) by Scottish Natural Heritage. Today, the final report for the SBT was published by partner organisations of the trial RZSS and the Scottish Wildlife Trust. The ground breaking report documents every part of the reintroduction process over the five year period and outlines all the findings and learnings of the trial. It is hoped the story will prove to be essential reading and form a template for future, similar reintroduction projects. You are able to read the report at

Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.

~Anthony J. D’Angelo

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