RZSS Thinker in Residence Blog

October 22, 2015 § Leave a comment

Autumnal greetings, as colourful leaves dance gently to the ground and we prepare to turn our clocks back for winter, and hibernation mode.

In light of the shorter days and longer nights I thought it might be a good opportunity to update you on two RZSS programmes under my wing, namely the Tribal Elders: Words of Wisdom lecture series, and the Residency Programme.


As a lifelong fan of campfire storytelling I have often felt in this era of technological know-how that we are as in danger of losing our treasured oral tradition for passing accumulated wisdom down from generation to generation as we are of losing many of the cherished endangered species we care so deeply to protect.

Thus was born the RZSS Tribal Elders Lecture series.

As many of you know, Dr Jane Goodall DBE was our inaugural Tribal Elder delivering a most passionate and inspiring talk entitled ‘Reasons for Hope’, followed by esteemed Professors Aubrey Manning OBE and Roger Wheater OBE.

Last week Roger Wheater returned to pass on the Tribal Elder baton to our Royal Patron, Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal.


HRH The Princess Royal delivered a most compelling and often humorous lecture entitled ‘Committed to Conservation: You Can Make a Difference,’ offering us many personal insights from a life-long love of animals, and decades of ambassadorship on behalf of international charities like the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Save the Children and since 2009, |The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland. In closing, she praised the RZSS for the myriad conservation initiatives we are conducting at home and abroad, and she challenged each of us to be brave enough to take a stand and make a difference.

At the conclusion questions were taken from the floor, then RZSS Chairman of the Board Jeremy Peat OBE offered the Vote of Thanks. As a special thank you for her continuing and generous support as our Royal Patron, HRH The Princess Royal was presented with a handmade silver hair comb adorned with an intricately crafted rhino. This piece was created by our Silversmith in Residence Bryony Knox, and inspired by our Indian one-horned rhinos Bertus and Samir.

You can see other works by Bryony on her website: www.bryonyknox.com


Additionally, Her Royal Highness was presented with a hand woven tray specially made for her by a women’s cooperative in Uganda, supported by our Budongo Chimpanzee Field Station.   Our Chief Executive Chris West and Head of Conservation Sarah Robinson brought the basket back from recent 25th anniversary celebrations of the field station, which also marked our tenth year of financial support.

If you missed this or any of the earlier talks, all Tribal Elder lectures are filmed for the RZSS Archives and can be viewed in their entirety through RZSS websites via the Members portal.


Last month we formally launched the RZSS Residencies Programme with the first Salon at Mansion House. This programme was implemented to engage experts in a myriad of fields to collaborate with the Society in new and different ways, so as to reach and inspire broader audiences to support our conservation work in Scotland and abroad.


I am pleased to say the revolving programme has been proceeding apace, with 15 appointments under the Thinking, Creating, Doing categories, including a paleontologist, storyteller, nature photographer, organic chef, emerging wildlife artist, environmental scientist and adventurer/explorer, amongst others.

Each residency is tailored to mutually benefit the Society and the professional, and each appointment is made initially for one year, with the option to renew if an ongoing collaboration warrants continuation. I am open to new suggestions, so please feel free to write in if you have a good candidate in mind.

In closing, we must offer a sad but fond farewell to our first appointed RZSS Resident – Sculptor in Residence John ‘JR’ Ramsay – who departed this life on 24 August after a very brief illness. JR is much missed, and leaves a rich legacy of work dotted throughout Edinburgh Zoo and the Highland Wildlife Park. We shall remain ever grateful to JR for creating three superb animal sculptures for our first three Tribal Elder speakers. In his final days, JR gifted us his working anvil, which will soon find a suitable home at Edinburgh Zoo.


SAVE THE DATE: Next Tribal Elder lecture featuring Dr Lee Durrell MBE, Thursday 14th April 2016 at Edinburgh Zoo.

Kathy Sorley,
RZSS Thinker in Residence          

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