Chief Executive’s Blog

January 30, 2015 § Leave a comment

Well welcome back to my blog as we start to move further into 2015; here at RZSS we are extremely excited about developments that lie ahead.

The new Edinburgh Zoo dinosaur exhibit will arrive in early April until the end of October and will see 14 life-size, animatronic models taking over the top of the hill. This is a great opportunity to engage children and adults alike with the key conservation messages of RZSS, whilst raising awareness of extinction and the threat it poses to many of the animals in our collection. Many of the departments across the Zoo are working hard to deliver this amazing experience for our visitors, from our gardens team who are choosing the fantastic flora and fauna to create the dinosaurs ‘habitat’, to our discovery and learning team who are developing educational materials to tie in with the exhibition.


Dinosaur plant shopping

Early 2015 will also see the arrival of a female polar bear at Highland Wildlife Park. Her large enclosure has been completed and is ready to house the new arrival. This will be a very significant move and will, we hope, help towards securing the future of this species, which is threatened by habitat destruction and global warming. If she settles quickly into her new home, introductions to one of the polar bear males may happen as early as April. It is still incredible to think that we may even have polar bear cubs as early as December at Highland Wildlife Park. The last polar bear cub born in the UK was 23 years ago.


Walker and Arktos by Jan Morse

Highland Wildlife Park also is likely to get a new male European grey wolf this year and a new female wolverine. The snow leopard enclosure that we announced towards at the end of last year is likely to be completed by early summer, with a male and female arriving from the European breeding programme before this date. In addition we have high hopes for a new pair of European beavers we established at the Park last year, with kits perhaps being born as early as May.


Xale, male wolverine by Alex Riddell

In terms of conservation science, WildGenes our RZSS genetics laboratory is carrying out trial runs on a new wildcat hybridisation test this week in preparation for testing wildcats at the Park as part of the captive breeding programme. Over in South East Asia, our team has met with the Malaysian Wildlife Department to discuss a workshop on illegal wildlife training. Also, our conservation genetics team and one of our veterinary surgeons met up in Hanoi, Vietnam, to visit a captive tiger sanctuary with the aim of tagging (eartags, transponder, stripe pattern and DNA) the tigers as a pilot project; this is with a view to tagging all captive tigers in Vietnam, and hopefully later Lao, to prevent them entering the illegal trade.

Finally, although much of Scotland might be under snow, our latest update from our Latin American researcher, Arnaud Desbiez, who is out in the Brazilian Pantanal undertaking field work, is that they are having a productive, but VERY HOT field expedition. Temperatures are at record highs and most of the time they do not have electricity – which makes things a little difficult!

Arnaud’s team recently caught up with a new female giant armadillo, as well as the two juvenile armadillos they are monitoring (Roberta and Alex). To read more about our work on armadillo species in the Pantanal, please do read this article on BBC Earth online

I have to end on a sad note and express our sorrow to hear of the passing of Mrs Margaret Peggie at the end of last year. Mrs Peggie and her late husband were instrumental in helping RZSS to save Mercedes the polar bear from being shot in her native Canada and in bringing her all the way to her new home at Edinburgh Zoo. Longtime supporters and Patrons of RZSS, we are extremely grateful for all the Peggies have done over the many years and offer our condolences to her family and friends.

“A chain is no stronger than its weakest link, and life is after all a chain”

– William James


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