Chief Executive’s Blog

February 6, 2015 § Leave a comment


GentooPenguinChick_12Well February is here and with it lots of cold bright sunshine. Each year in February our colony of gentoo penguins at Edinburgh Zoo begin their breeding season. Funnily enough, and an amusing coincidence of nature, it is round about February 14th that nest rings and pebbles go into Penguins Rock. The birds will increasingly start to show behaviours associated with breeding – calling, sitting in the nests, selecting a mate, pebble giving (and some stealing!). It is also entertaining to watch and, as we often say, there is never a dull moment in Penguins Rock at this time of year.

Still on the subject of birds, Edinburgh Zoo recently added a very threatened species to our bird collection. The Baer’s pochard is a diving duck which is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List. These birds can remain submerged for up to 40 seconds and dive a distance of two metres deep looking for food. They are a new species for Edinburgh Zoo and our bird keepers are pleased to have them in our collection. The birds are currently on display in our flamingo enclosure which is near to the entrance of the Zoo. Other feathered editions include three rainbow lorikeets that are currently off show.

At Highland Wildlife Park, we have just received approval from the Indian Central Zoo Authority to send them another two female satyr tragopans for their conservation programme in Darjeeling. One bird hatched in the Highlands in 2014 and another is from a World Pheasant Association member. A rare and endangered bird species, the programme is an attempt to kick-start a recovery plan for the species.

Satyr_Tragopan_1_JPIn 2013 nine tragopans, bred in captivity in the UK and donated by the World Pheasant Association’s conservation project, were sent to the foothills of the Himalayas. It was these birds that were provided special quarantine facilities at Highland Wildlife Park prior to their departure because very specialist skills and resources were required.

RZSS is also very proud to be arranging the reintroduction of European Bison again this year in two possible locations (Vanatori Neamt in Romania again and a new site in northern Spain which is at the south-western edge of the species’ historical range). This will be another great step taken to help re-establish these majestic animals after they became extinct in the wild in 1927. Last year we reintroduced a female European bison from Highland Wildlife Park to an established herd in Romania.

This week takes our WildGenes team to Thailand where swabs are being collected from elephants in the Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp and Resort as part of a pilot project DNA registration system for Thailand’s captive elephants. While there our team will also provide training in the use of 40 new camera traps that are being funded by WWF USA, as well as DNA sample collection to help aid our project to survey and protect biodiversity in Burma.

Finally, RZSS’ veterinary team is hosting the natterjack sub-group this week to contribute to disease screening.

“For most of history, man has had to fight nature to survive; in this century he is beginning to realise that, in order to survive, he must protect it.” — Jacques-Yves Cousteau


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