Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Zoo membership won't be kept in a cage any longer

Zoo membership won't be kept in a cage any longer

Is history about to repeat itself at crisis-hit Edinburgh Zoo, asks John Barrett

There used to be a zoo in the north of Edinburgh, near the site of the Royal Botanic Gardens, which lasted for only 18 years from 1839. It was popular, and was called the Royal Edinburgh Zoological Gardens. It closed after it was sold off to a commercial concern that was just interested in making money. It appears history might be about to repeat itself.

In recent years the zoo appears to have lurched from crisis to crisis. Currently, many members feel that they have been left in the dark for too long and a group has demanded an extraordinary general meeting, at which a vote of no confidence in the chairman and board will be discussed.

The meeting will take place this Thursday and interest from the estimated 23,000 members has already resulted in the venue being changed from the zoo itself to a larger venue at Murrayfield Stadium.

The importance of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), which runs Edinburgh Zoo, spreads throughout the country and beyond.

As well as providing a family day out, it has responsibilities for conservation, education and research projects, both in Scotland and internationally.

As a life member, each year I am sent the annual report showing the many good things going on, but there is also a clear risk of the organisation spreading itself too thinly.

The zoo has often trumpeted its multi-million pound masterplan, but anyone who had the nerve to question the need to sell land for development was told that they were putting this plan at risk.

Many members have told me that they feel the board and former chief executive overstepped the mark regarding disposing of and developing land that was given to the RZSS for the specific use of the zoo.

The performance of the board must be held up to close scrutiny. They need to demonstrate exactly what actions they have taken in recent years to ensure the organisation was well managed. They need to show what their value actually was.

I have no doubt that the individual board members have a range of skills and talents, but I am not convinced the board delivers the needs and aspirations of the membership.

When I made my maiden speech in parliament, I proudly mentioned the fact that I probably represented more penguins than any other MP in the UK. Sadly, the once top-class enclosure now looks neglected.

It is important to the local and Scottish economy as one of the top-ranking tourist attractions in the country and it is on one of the most beautiful zoo sites in the world on Co.....

Read More Here: John Barrett: Zoo membership won't be kept in a cage any longer - News


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