Chief Executive’s Blog

November 15, 2013 § Leave a comment


Rainbow_kingpenguinIn news from Edinburgh Zoo, our koala joey is becoming increasingly active and is starting to be seen more and more. Often this is just a limb or a nose sticking out of the pouch, so visitors still have to be very patient to catch a glimpse! Our Visayan warty piglets have had their first health check and the keepers have sexed them as two boys and two girls, though names are still to be chosen. Finally, on Monday a new male king penguin arrived from Denmark. His name is Rainbow and he is settling into the group nicely. Edinburgh Zoo only houses a bachelor group of king penguins at the moment, as females are quite rare.

Up at the Highland Wildlife Park, keepers have been enjoying watching Kush, the red panda cub, learn to climb trees. Despite this being an everyday part of life for a red panda, Kush does seem rather worried about it all! Kush was born in early June this year and is the Park’s first red panda cub. He has become a firm favourite with keepers and visitors alike and can be seen near the visitor centre with his parents Kitty and Kevyn.

Photo by Alex Riddell

Photo by Alex Riddell

This week the Park also received a visit from Rhoda Grant, MSP and the Scottish Environment LINK Species Champion for the Scottish wildcat. During her visit, Rhoda met with Douglas Richardson, Head of Living Collections for the Park and steering group member for the Scottish Wildcat Conservation Action Group, to talk about the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s involvement in the recently launched Scottish Wildcat Conservation Action Plan. Rhoda also had the opportunity to meet the Park’s resident adult wildcats Betidh, Hamish and Zak, alongside three month old kittens Ness and Einich.

Yesterday, I attended Scottish Parliament to hear Colin Keir, MSP for Edinburgh Western open a Member’s debate that commended Edinburgh Zoo’s work over the past 100 years. I was delighted to hear several members of Parliament discuss the achievements of both Edinburgh Zoo and RZSS, as well as share their own personal stories of time spent at the Zoo. This year has certainly been an immense one for RZSS and over the next 100 years, we will continue to work towards our aim of connecting people with nature and safeguarding species from extinction.

Finally, a brief reminder that our carnivore keepers will be holding a Panda and Carnivore Talk on Thursday 28th November from 7:30pm. During the evening, the keepers will discuss all of the recent news within the carnivore section, as well as talk about their work with giant pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang. If you would like to attend this special event, booking is recommended. Tickets cost £5 for members and £7 for non-members. You can book by either calling 0131 314 0334 or emailing

“Destroying rainforest for economic gain is like burning a Renaissance painting to cook a meal.”
― Edward O. Wilson


Chief Executive’s Blog

September 6, 2013 § Leave a comment


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

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