Chief Executive’s Blog

June 12, 2015 § Leave a comment


It seems as if summer has finally arrived with some glorious sunny weather.

Baby Alex - Giant Armadillo Project, Brazilian Pantanal

Baby Alex – Giant Armadillo Project, Brazilian Pantanal

Over in still warmer climes, our Giant Armadillo Conservation Project team out in the Brazilian Pantanal has been very busy over the past two months and has made great progress. The team has undertaken two expeditions recently: the first was a short one week expedition, led by the team’s Project Biologist, Gabriel Massocato. The objective of the expedition was to locate the armadillos they had been tracking as the group had not been in the field for a month due to heavy rains. The team managed to find Alex, the young giant armadillo, within a few hours and were rather surprised to find that he is still in his mother’s territory. Alex will turn two on 2 July. The researchers also managed to track down Alex’s mother, Isabelle who, according to close inspections of her burrows and the camera traps, has not yet had another baby. They are monitoring Isabelle closely to find out if she is pregnant and when she will have her next baby, as this information is crucial for our understanding of giant armadillo reproduction and population growth rates.

The second expedition in the Pantanal is one I have mentioned in a previous blog post, but the results were particularly interesting. In May, the Giant Armadillo Conservation Project team advanced their reproduction study, with the help of veterinarian and reproduction specialist Camila Luba. An examination of Alex showed that he has not yet reached sexual maturity, which is a very interesting finding indeed, as it gives valuable information about the reproduction of giant armadillos and how long it takes them to reach sexual maturity. The team is also still searching for traces of giant armadillos in the Sao Paulo state, where giant armadillos are thought to have gone extinct over 40 years ago. The scientists are currently working hard to expand the project and have just hired a student for a few months as well as a biologist.

Meanwhile, at our WildGenes lab located at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo, Conservation Geneticist Dr Gill Murray-Dickson is busy preparing a genetic tool poster for identifying the geographic origin of snake skins in commercial trade. The DNA tests are being developed to provide evidence of origin to regulatory bodies that investigate illegal trade. This will allow authorities to determine whether the snake skins used in commercially sold items were illegally poached. The poster will be presented at an ITC (International Trade Centre) and DICE (Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology) symposium in Canterbury this month.

RZSS recognised with seven awards at this years BIAZA Awards.

RZSS recognised with seven awards at this years BIAZA Awards.

BIAZA (British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums) held its annual award ceremony this week at Woburn Safari Park. The event, also known as the Zoo Oscars, is held to celebrate some of the contributions made by the zoo community to animal welfare, wildlife conservation, public understanding and horticulture. I am very pleased to announce that the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland walked away with a fair number of awards. In the Animal Breeding, Care and Welfare category, RZSS received three silver awards for the hand rearing of Darwin’s rhea chicks, the successful rearing of a chimpanzee by a previously unsuccessful mother and captive husbandry for European elk/moose. In the Conservation category we were awarded silver for our work on the Scottish Beaver Trial. In the Education category we were awarded two Bronze awards for our Scottish Beaver Trial and Beyond the Panda education programmes. And finally, we received a Bronze in the PR, Marketing, Digital and Events section for ‘Inspire, Engage and Enrich: a new digital presence for Scotland’s iconic Zoo’.

Giant pelican walk-through at Edinburgh Zoo

Giant pelican walk-through at Edinburgh Zoo

And in other news, our new pelican walkthrough exhibit at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo will be opening on Monday 15 June. The building and gardens teams have been hard at work over the last few months to get the walkthrough ready and I must say it looks fantastic. As of Monday, visitors will be able to walk through the pelican enclosure, getting up close to the pelicans with unrestricted views. The walkthrough is full of beautiful plantings and willow trees that are around 100 years old, as well as a number of ponds and cascading waterfalls. We have another special walkthrough exhibit opening soon, but I will tell you more about that closer to the time.

“The wilderness holds answers to questions man has not yet learned to ask.”- Nancy Newhal


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