Chief Executive’s Blog

December 12, 2014 § Leave a comment

Romain Pizzi - RZSS Veterinary Surgeon

On Monday at Edinburgh Zoo, Romain Pizzi, veterinary surgeon at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, carried out a talk on the wonders of wildlife surgery as part of a global series of Café Scientifique events. The idea behind these events is to make the latest ideas in science and technologies readily accessible for the public. Romain spoke about his experience performing surgery in remote, wild locations and the challenges he has faced trying to provide post-operative care. It is often impossible to rest a wild animal after surgery; for example, aquatic animals need to be returned to the water immediately after surgery and intelligent animals, such as chimpanzees, are able to remove sutures and interfere with open wounds. All in all, an interesting talk which reminds us of the complexity of the animal kingdom.

Great news from Dr. Ross McEwing who is the Wildlife Programme Manager for RZSS in South East Asia. A new website for the Karen Wildlife Conservation Initiative in Burma ( is now up and running. RZSS is one of the organisations involved in the project which was established in 2012 to conserve the biodiversity hotspot and its threatened wildlife as the area undergoes political reform. Military conflict has made the state inaccessible to poachers and illegal wildlife traders, meaning it is one of the few remaining regions in the world with a full component of top predators and an extensive prey base to support it.

Walker and Arktos celebrate their birthday

There were celebrations this week at Highland Wildlife Park as polar bears Walker and Arktos enjoyed their sixth and seventh birthdays with a joint party. Keepers made frozen birthday cakes for the two bears – carrots, fruit, hazelnuts and sardines frozen in circular blocks of ice – which were tied to trees in the enclosure. Walker was straight into the cakes and tore them down from the trees, then pounced and clawed at them to get to the food inside. Arktos eventually got into the cakes, but was more distracted by the fresh snow on the ground which, not only added to the picturesque polar scene, but was added enrichment for the bears as they rolled about in it. A well-timed extra piece of birthday enrichment!

At Edinburgh Zoo, things got festive at Penguins Rock at the beginning of this week. On Monday, keepers traded their Penicuik caps for Santa hats for the daily Penguin Parade to help raise awareness of the Great Edinburgh Santa Family Fun Run and Walk 2014 organised by charity When You Wish Upon A Star. The red hats kept their ears warm and added a bit of Christmas cheer to the Penguin Parade.

The birds then received a winter’s treat on Tuesday as keepers emptied buckets of icy snow into Penguins Rock for them to waddle through and act as an environmental enrichment. The curious birds were straight over and scooped up the ice in their beaks, as well as slipping and sliding on the enrichment. Keepers even joined in the festive fun and created a snow penguin which had sprats for eyes and a nose – penguin beaks quickly picked these out. Then on Thursday, fresh snow fell from the sky and turned Penguins Rock momentarily into a scenic winter wonderland covered in little footprints from the birds.

Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine.

~Anthony J. D’Angelo


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