Today (Wednesday 8 September 2010) HRH The Princess Royal visited the Highland Wildlife Park in Kincraig and opened a new wolf enclosure; Wolf Wood.
Home to the resident European grey wolf female, Elara, and a newly arrived five-year old male, Puika, the £300,000 enclosure, complete with viewing platform, has been built with help from Royal Engineers [75 Engineer Regiment, 5 Armoured Engineer Squadron and 14 Geographic Squadron].
HRH The Princess Royal, in the presence of staff and visitors, unveiled a plaque and cut a ribbon to declare the new 2,000m² Wolf Wood officially open. It is hoped that the new surroundings will encourage the recently introduced wolf pair to breed over the coming years.
As patron of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), the charity that owns the Highland Wildlife Park, Her Royal Highness was given a special tour of the Park as part of her two-hour visit. Until recently, the Highland Wildlife Park’s animal collection contained Scotland’s past and present species but was expanded to include animals from cold weather and high land habitats from around the world. The Park is home to the UK’s only polar bear as well as Amur tigers and snow monkeys and now welcomes over 125,000 visitors a year.
Joined by Douglas Richardson, Animal Collections Manager for the Highland Wildlife Park and Will Boyd-Wallis from the Cairngorm National Park Authority, The Princess Royal was given an insight into the ground-breaking work being undertaken on the Scottish wildcat as part of the Highland Tiger initiative. The partnership project aims to raise awareness of the plight of the Scotland’s most threatened native cat species through encouraging responsible domestic cat ownership and monitoring the level of hybridisation in wild populations.
Knowing of The Princess’ well documented love of horses, she was then driven on a tour of the reserve that took in some of the larger, free-roaming animals such as kiang, bison, elk and deer as well as Przewalski’s horses. Extinct in the wild, these horses are the only true wild horse and were saved thanks to zoo collections which cared for the last 12 horse which now form the foundations for today’s captive collection. The Highland Wildlife Park has eight of these horses within its collection.
David Windmill, Chief Executive of RZSS said;
“We are delighted that Her Royal Highness has been able to visit the Highland Wildlife Park and see in detail some of the really important conservation work we are carrying out. In recent years, as our wildlife has struggled with the challenges it faces, the role and purpose of captive animal collections has shifted from a perception of simply animal showcases to an active conservation ambassador role. At the Highland Wildlife Park and at its sister site Edinburgh Zoo we are committed to wildlife conservation, education and research and we are honoured that The Princess has taken time out from her busy schedule to learn more about what we do and why we do it.”
The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), the charity that owns Edinburgh Zoo and the Highland Wildlife Park, has a long-standing relationship with the Royal family. With the Royal Charter being granted in 1913, it still remains the only zoo in the UK to have achieved Royal status. HRH The Princess Royal became RZSS’s patron in March 2009.
The Princess Royal left the Park just before midday for other engagements including, in the afternoon, a visit to in Knapdale, Mid-Argyll to see another RZSS partnership project; the Scottish Beaver Trial.
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