Chief Executive’s Blog

November 1, 2013 § Leave a comment

I am very pleased to share that last night the Cairngorms Wildcat Project, a partnership between the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA), Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association, and Forestry Commission Scotland, won the Innovation Award at the 2013 Nature of Scotland Awards.

Scottish wildcat by Katie Paton

Scottish wildcat by Katie Paton

The judges recognised the Project’s ground-breaking work to better understand the conservation status of the Scottish wildcat within the Cairngorms. Launched in 2009, the Project aimed to raise awareness within the local community about the plight of the wildcat and encourage responsible domestic cat ownership, as well as monitor the wildcat population within the area and gather important genetic information to assess the extent of hybridisation.

Although the Cairngorms Wildcat Project concluded in 2012, its work has been a precursor to the recently launched Scottish Wildcat Conservation Action Plan, in which all five partners are also involved. Information gathered during the Project has also been used to develop SNH’s species action framework.

Also nominated in the same category was the Scottish Beaver Trial – a partnership between Scottish Wildlife Trust, the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and Forestry Commission Scotland. Many of you will know that the Scottish Beaver Trial is the first licensed mammal re-introduction trial to ever take place in the UK and our findings will hopefully pave the way for future programmes. The Trial has experimented with innovative ways to study beavers and their effects and we see it as an important and pioneering step towards further understanding species reintroduction and how it may play a role in ecosystem restoration. Great recognition all round for both projects.

Staying with Scottish conservation projects, last week our Zoo and Environmental Skills Training (ZEST) secondary school pupils who are currently taking part in a work experience programme at Edinburgh Zoo, visited the Trossachs National Park to learn about water vole conservation. A RSPB and Forestry Commission Education Officer, Lucy Tozer, met the students at the David Marshall Lodge and gave a talk about the project including, the history of the water voles in the park, threats to water voles, and the process of reintroduction and surveying. The students then went into the forest and undertook a survey for water voles, looking for field signs and learning how to define and record a survey area. Our Discover and Learning team tell me they were also lucky enough to have an experienced bat expert on hand as well, so the students had a chance to see an examination of a live pipistrelle bat and hear all about how we monitor the Scottish bat populations.

Capuchin_Pumpkin_6_kp_29.10On lighter note, Edinburgh Zoo’s troupe of brown capuchins in the Living Links enclosure enjoyed special Halloween-themed enrichment hung from trees in the outdoor enclosure. Capuchins are very intelligent and inquisitive and greatly enjoy interacting with the various activities or treats they receive. By hanging the enrichment there is an added level of complexity, which will mean the capuchins have to use their prehensile tails and excellent climbing skills to reach their treats. Providing both mental and physical stimulation for the monkeys, things like this also give visitors the opportunity to see the troupe display natural behaviours normally seen in the wild.

“Don’t blow it – good planets are hard to find” quoted in Time

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Chief Executive’s Blog

September 12, 2013 § Leave a comment

Hello,

FREE TO USE - PANDA SYMPOSIUMThis week has been an important one for the Society with Edinburgh Zoo hosting our first ever Giant Panda Research Symposium. Taking place from Tuesday 10th September until Thursday 12th September, the Symposium was officially opened by myself as well as the Chinese Consul General Li Ruiyou, RZSS Chairman Jeremy Peat and Jaguar Land Rover China President Bob Grace. Held in partnership with Jaguar Land Rover, the Symposium gathered local officials and over 65 experts from around the world to help develop a five-year research plan for giant pandas and we have been very pleased with the outcomes from this event, with many new ideas and plans being shared by our international colleagues.

This week we also played host to the media launch of PANDAS 3D. A project that involved Sky, National Geographic and Oxford Scientific Films, PANDAS 3D is a documentary filmed entirely in 3D that includes never before seen footage of giant pandas living in the Wolong National Nature Reserve in China. The premiere was held in our Budongo Lecture Theatre and I thought documentary was excellent.

In animal news, Pedra, one of our female brown capuchins at Edinburgh Zoo’s Living Links enclosure gave birth over the weekend. This is now the fourth brown capuchin infant to be born on the west side of the enclosure, with the other mothers including Lana, Santi, and Sylvi. We also had a new male Nyala arrive from Plzen in the Czech Republic on Tuesday afternoon. Although he is only 18 months old, he will one day be our herd’s adult breeding male – our Nyalas can be found in the African Plains at the top of the hill.

KiangFoal

Photo by Alex Riddell

At the Highland Wildlife Park, keepers have named this season’s three Eastern kiang foals. The boy is called Rinchen, and the two girls are Dachen and Amala. The trio can be seen with the rest of their group in the Park’s front drive-through reserve. The Park has also welcomed another red deer calf born several weeks after the others – there’s always a late one! This newest arrival brings the red deer calves born this season up to an impressive 13.

For those who are interested in finding out more about the Society’s animal husbandry and conservation work, Edinburgh Zoo is offering an introductory course on Animal Welfare and Conservation. As part of Edinburgh Council’s autumn Adult Learning Programme, the 10 week course runs from 24th September until 19th November and offers participants the opportunity to take a closer look at the scientific research that is being carried out by the Society. The course will include learning about applied conservation genetics, wildlife forensics, veterinary, behaviour, ecology and nutrition. Each area of science plays a vital role in the care and conservation of animals in captivity and in the wild. To book this course please visit the Council website <http://ces.egfl.net/programme/prog01?category=day> or for more information contact Edinburgh Zoo’s Education Centre on 0131 314 0330. You can also email the course co-ordinator Alaina Macri at amacri@rzss.org.uk.

“The fate of animals is…indissolubly connected with the fate of men.”

 Émile Zola

Chief Executive’s Blog

September 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

Hello,

Although September usually heralds the end of summer with the new school year starting and the weather turning cooler, we have had a

Przewalski's horse foal by Jan Morse

Przewalski’s horse foal by Jan Morse

flurry of new births at both sites in the past week. At Edinburgh Zoo our troupe of brown capuchins welcomed their third new arrival of the season; the infant was born to Sylvania and can be seen on the west side of our Living Links enclosure. And up at the Highland Wildlife Park, our youngest female Przewalski’s horse, Ieda, gave birth to a foal early Monday morning. This newcomer is the Park’s first Przewalski’s foal in five years and the father Hero’s first offspring and can be seen with the herd in the Park’s main drive-through enclosure.

Still up at the Highland Wildlife Park, the team there have been assisting the Alladale Estate rehome all four of their European elk as well as developing a national plan for the species that will help to establish further unrelated groups within the UK, including at least three new holders for the species. These movements are an important part of animal husbandry and species management as it promotes stronger genetic diversity and reduces the risk of inbreeding.

Visitors to the Park may also notice that the red panda area has been fully opened for visitor access. Unfortunately Kush, the red panda cub, is still preferring to spend his time in the nesting box and is only seen outside when carried by his mother Kitty. Keepers will be installing a camera trap in the enclosure to try and learn more about his movements.

Back down at Edinburgh Zoo, we held a members workshop on positive reinforcement training for animals during the weekend. It all went very well with the participants trying, firstly, to train one another to do certain tasks using targets, clickers and rewards and then we even had a guest animal (Diesel, one of our keepers’ dogs) who allowed the children in the workshop to try some hands on training.

blog_sandzooOn Wednesday we bade farewell to our magnificent Sand Zoo, with fifteen volunteers from Scottish Widows on hand to help our gardens team demolish the sand sculpture and disperse the 90 tonnes of sand, which will be reused as part of our on-site bamboo nursery. It was delightful to see so many visitors enjoy our centenary sculpture and beach in the city during the summer.

This week Romain Pizzi, one of the veterinary surgeons at Edinburgh Zoo has been at the International Penguin Conference in Bristol where he gave two presentations on the Society’s penguin work: the first on minimally invasive endoscopic surgery in penguins and the second on the effect of dietary change on mortality in a large captive gentoo penguin population over a 47 year period.

Finally, last Friday we hosted a Members and Adopters night at the Zoo, which was very well received despite it threatening to rain most of the night. The event was attended by 1,100 members, adopters and their guests. During the evening we held special keeper talks, meet the keeper opportunities and animal encounters that all proved to be very popular.

He who plants a tree plants a hope.
~Lucy Larcom

Chief Executive’s Blog

May 3, 2013 § Leave a comment

The panda breeding season has drawn to a close now at Edinburgh Zoo, but another collection of famous black and white residents are still progressing steadily with their annual breeding excitement. Yes, of course, it’s penguin breeding season here once again.

GentooPenguinOur birds, old and new, settled in very quickly into their new Penguins Rock enclosure and almost immediately claimed their nesting rings in the breeding area. The first gentoo egg was laid in early April and we now have a total of 35 eggs being kept warm by the birds. This year we have a mixture of new and old gentoo pairings, with quite a few birds just reaching maturity and breeding for the first time.

Our rockhoppers managed to lay five eggs, but unfortunately only one proved to be fertile and this then stopped developing. We have high hopes for our rockhopper penguins though we were joined by 12 new birds last year Rockhopper_Brucefrom Vienna Zoo and this year saw a number of new pairings. A fair few rockhoppers are still to reach maturity also, so watch this space in years to come. A rockhopper chick would be particularly special due to their endangered status.

Just in time for the eggs hatching, we are delighted to say our all new penguin cam is back and in high definition. Also watch out for the egg and chick counter arriving online soon!

Last week a new young black stork female arrived from Chester; she is currently housed with an East African crowned crane down in the aviary west of the lower duck ponds. A Madagascar teal female also came to us from Cornwall; currently in standard quarantine, she will go on display in the near future. Other news from our bird team is that our pair of cassowaries have been showing some breeding behaviour and are in with each other at present – so far, so good.

On the east side of Living Links, the onsite field station and research centre at Edinburgh Zoo for the study of primates that was developed in a unique partnership with RZSS and the University of St Andrews, our keepers micro-chipped and sexed two brown capuchin infants. The offspring of Penelope and Anita, both babies are female and our keeper’s will decide on names this week.

Onto other living collections at Edinburgh Zoo, but of a slightly different kind… Simon Jones our longstanding Curator of Plants & Head of Sustainability has advised me he received a lovely letter recently from the International Camellia Society to let him know that Edinburgh Zoo’s gardens have been reclassified as an ICS UK Garden of Special Interest. Well done to the Gardens team

EducationCPDOnto education, on Friday 26th April we had 23 science, biology and chemistry teachers from over 15 different Scottish secondary schools come to Edinburgh Zoo to take part in a teacher training day. A Continuing Professional Development programme, RZSS offered this course in conjunction with the University of St Andrews. All secondary schools in Scotland were invited to send relevant teachers with a view to our experts helping with their curriculum learning. The attendees took part in a chimpanzee and human chromosome workshop, enjoyed a general talk on chimpanzees and took a tour of the Living Links facility. Key learning resources are now available on the Living Links website available for use in schools on various aspects of primatology www.living-links.org/resources/materials-for-teachers

At the Highland Wildlife Park, keepers have named the young Mishmi takin, who recently had the cast removed from his healed broken leg, Chumbi after the Chumbi Valley in Tibet where takins are currently being reintroduced.

Last but certainly not least, Simon Girling our Head Veterinarian has just returned from the European College of Zoological Medicine annual meeting in Wiesbaden in Germany. Simon was invited to present original RZSS research into malignant catarrhal fever in exotic hoofstock. This week he will also lecture to post graduate veterinary students on reptile medicine and surgery, and also wildlife medicine and surgery.

Best wishes,

Chris

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