Highland Wildlife Park

Lynx Triplets Emerge at Highland Wildlife Park

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A trio of adorable Northern Lynx cubs can be seen with their parents at RZSS Highland Wildlife Park.

The ‘purr-fect’ cubs were born on May 26. They spent the first couple of months safely tucked in their den and have now started to wander out to explore their large outdoor enclosure.

The cubs were born to mum, Dimma, and father, Switch. They are the fifth consecutive litter of cubs reared by the Lynx pair. The cubs from previous years have moved on to other zoological collections as part of a coordinated breeding programme.

Vickie Larkin, Carnivore Team Leader at RZSS Highland Wildlife Park, shared, “We are incredibly pleased to have had Lynx cubs again this year. The cubs are doing well and are extremely playful. Dimma and Switch arrived at the Park in 2012 and have had a litter of cubs every year since their arrival, which is testament to the team’s husbandry experience as well as their spacious enclosure.”

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3_DSC_2068Photo Credits: RZSS/Alex Riddell

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The adorable feline trio can be seen playing and tumbling about their enclosure at the Park. Whilst initially nervous when they first left their den, they have become more confidant and have been adventurously exploring and playing in their enclosure.

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Kittens a Boost for Scotland's Vanishing Wildcats

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Two litters of rare Scottish Wildcats born at Highland Wildlife Park could play a huge role in the conservation of this species, which is considered by some to be Europe’s rarest mammal.

The kittens’ birth is part of a conservation program and could result in the species’ eventual reintroduction to some protected areas of Scotland.

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16_07_12 20 DSC_2054_CreditAlexRidellPhoto Credits:  RZSS/Alex Riddell (1, 2, 4), RZSS/Jan Morse (3)

For several months, the kittens have been tucked safely in their dens with their mothers, but they have begun venturing outdoors recently.  The playfulness that zoo guests observe between the mothers and their babies is actually an important part of developing the kittens’ survival skills.

Also known as the Highland Tiger, this rare native species is facing the threat of extinction due to hybridization with domestic and feral Cats, habitat loss, and accidental persecution.   The species is Critically Endangered in Scotland and is the only wild Cat native to Scotland.

The zoo is partnering with other Scottish conservation organizations to develop an action plan for preserving the species.  The captive breeding program managed by the zoo provides an increasingly important safety net as the wild population of this Wildcat continues to decline.

Although some similarities with Domestic Cats exist, the two species are not to be confused. The Scottish Wildcat is an isolated sub-population of the European Wildcat, which is found in continental Europe. Wildcats prefer to live alone but will come together for breeding, normally giving birth to two or three kittens, which the mother will protect fiercely.

With their big, bushy, black-ringed tail and tenacious behavior, Scottish Wildcats play a large role in Scottish lore, and were often used in clan crests.


These Bison Babies Could Have a Wild Future

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Two baby European Bison born at Scotland’s Highland Wildlife Park may one day roam eastern Europe’s natural areas as part of a program to reestablish the species, which became extinct in the wild in 1927.

The calves, one male and one female, were born at the drive-through reserve on May 13 to two different mothers.  The births are part of an international program, led by Highland Wildlife Park, to manage the zoo-dwelling Bison population and help increase the wild herds.

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16_06_28_EuropeanBison_01_kpPhoto Credit: Highland Wildlife Park

European Bison are similar to American Bison and once roamed most of eastern, central, and western Europe.  By 1927, there were no European Bison remaining in the wild, but 54 animals were living in zoos.

Since then, the European Bison has become a conservation success story.  Through managed breeding, genetic diversity has been maximized and animals have been transported from zoos to wilderness areas in eastern Europe. Bison born at Highland Wildlife Park have been translocated in the past, and a large group is set to move to Romania later this year.

When these two calves are old enough, they may join their herdmates in the wilds of eastern Europe.


Restoring an Endangered Species, One Calf at a Time

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A rare Bukhara Deer calf born in June at Scotland’s RZSS Highland Wildlife Park is part of a global effort to bring the species back from the brink of extinction.

Bukhara deer are a subspecies of Red Deer native to central Asia. These deer were once one of the world's most threatened mammal species after populations diminished greatly in the 1970s and 1980s. By 1999, only 350 Deer were left in the wild.

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DSC_1646Photo Credit:  RZSS/Alex Riddell

Thanks to reintroduction of zoo-born animals and restoration of their natural habitat, Bukhara deer now number over 1,400 animals in the wild. While the reintroduction of this Deer has been successful, their population numbers are still low, which is why captive breeding of Bukhara deer remains important to their survival.

RZSS Highland Wildlife Park is home to the only breeding herd of Bukhara deer in the United Kingdom and currently has a herd of six animals.

See more photos of the calf below.

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Spring Is Doubly Sweet at Highland Wildlife Park

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As warm weather arrived, so did the annual birthing season at RZSS Highland Wildlife Park. The latest new arrivals at the Highlands are two Elk twins, born on May 15. With their long, gangly legs and adorably oversized ears, the youngsters are already stealing visitors’ hearts.

Elk became extinct in Scotland between 1,000 and 7,000 years ago, and are a perfect fit for the Highland Wildlife Park, which specialises in native species---past and present, as well as cold tundra animals from around the world. Elk can still be found in woodlands in the northern hemisphere, throughout Scandinavia and northern Russia. Elk are particularly good at running for long periods of time, fighting off predators (due to their size and powerful kicks) and swimming.

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4_DSC_1440Photo Credits: RZSS/Alex Riddell

Morag Sellar, Head Hoofed Stock Keeper at RZSS Highland Wildlife Park, said, “The twins are still a little shaky on their long legs, but they are already able to keep up with their mother Cas and run around for short distances. The youngsters will continue to suckle for the next five months whilst learning to forage. Although small now, they will grow to an impressive ten times their birth size.

“We are particularly proud of our success with Elk which was acknowledged at last year’s BIAZA (British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums) Awards, where the Park received a silver award for the captive husbandry of European Elk/Moose.”

The Elk (Eurasia) or Moose (North America), Alces alces, is the largest extant species in the deer family. The palmate antlers of the males distinguish Elk/Moose; other members of the family have antlers with a dendritic ("twig-like") configuration. They typically inhabit boreal and mixed deciduous forests of the Northern Hemisphere in temperate to subarctic climates. The species used to have a much wider range but hunting and other human activities have greatly reduced it. Elk/Moose have been reintroduced to some of their former habitats. Currently, most are found in Canada, Alaska, New England, Scandinavia, Latvia, Estonia and Russia.

Their diet consists of both terrestrial and aquatic vegetation. Their most common predators are wolves, bears and humans. Unlike most other deer species, Elk/Moose are solitary animals and do not form herds. Although generally slow-moving and sedentary, they can become aggressive and move quickly if angered or startled. Their mating season in the autumn can lead to spectacular fights between males competing for a female.

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Lynx Trio Explores Highland Wildlife Park

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At almost three months old, the Northern Lynx triplets, at RZSS Highland Wildlife Park in Scotland, spent their first few weeks huddled together in the warmth of various dens with their mother, but they are now bravely venturing out to explore their whole enclosure. 

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Born to mum, Dimma, and dad, Switch, on May 25, this is the fourth consecutive year the couple have had cubs. Una Richardson, Head Keeper for Carnivores at RZSS Highland Wildlife Park, commented, “This is the fourth year in a row they have produced cubs - a real testament to the quality of the animal husbandry and the enclosure here. Dimma gave birth to her previous litters in the bushes at the front of the enclosure, which required us to rope-off the adjacent visitor path, but this year she has opted for the privacy and security of the nest boxes provided in the lynx house.”

Dimma, which means 'fog' in Swedish, was born on the 24 May 2010, at Boras Wild Animal Park, in Sweden, and she arrived at Highland Wildlife Park in February 2012. Switch was born May 2010, in Latvia, and came to the Park one month after Dimma

The cubs’ antics are generating quite a stir with keepers and visitors to the Park. Richardson remarked, “Watching the cubs play fighting with each other, running and tumbling about the enclosure, it’s easy to see why they are quickly becoming favorites with both staff and visitors, over the past few weeks. They have been putting on quite a show, especially at feeding time when they routinely play stalk and pounce on sections of meat as big as themselves.”

RZSS Highland Wildlife Park's Lynx are part of the European Zoo Association's coordinated breeding programme and, although the species is not endangered, it has become locally extinct in many areas across Europe, resulting in some sub-populations being considered “endangered” or even “critically endangered”. The Lynx occurred in the UK until possibly as late as the Middle Ages. Loss of habitat, reduced prey availability and illegal hunting are the biggest threats to wild Lynx populations. There have been a number of successful Lynx reintroduction projects within Europe, including in Switzerland and France.

Northern Lynx have a short, thick tail with a blunt black tip. They have distinctive dark tufts on their ears, which are thought to act a bit like antennae in helping to locate prey using their excellent hearing. The Lynx also has exceptional leaping ability, as it is an ambush predator

They also have a pale sandy-grey to rusty-red colored coat, with indistinct spots. In winter, the coat becomes much denser and the large, rounded feet help them travel over deep snow.

Northern lynx mate in late February to early March. They usually have 2 or 3 kittens, which stay with their mother until next breeding season.

More great pics, below the fold!

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Rare Foal Springs Into Scotland

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A spunky Przewalski’s Horse was born on April 30 at Scotland’s Highland Wildlife Park.  Once extinct in the wild, Przewalski’s (pronounced Shevalsky’s) or Mongolian Wild Horses have been reintroduced to their native habitat thanks to the efforts of several European zoos.

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The little foal, which has not yet been named, follows its mother Val around the drive-through reserve and appears to be healthy and strong.

Found in the steppes of Central Asia, Przelwalski’s Wild Horses are the last surviving species of wild Horse and are classified as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Formally listed as extinct in the wild in 1969, the IUCN reclassified Przelwalski’s Wild Horses to Endangered after the species was successfully re-introduced into their native Mongolia in 1992.

Though zoos have had success breeding this species and they have become reestablished in the wild, Przelwalski’s Wild Horse populations are still considered precarious, partly due to threats from poachers. 


Muskox Birth Gives Keepers Reason For Hope

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Keepers at Highland Wildlife Park are excited to announce the arrival of a Muskox calf. 

Mum, Karin, who was born in the Czech Republic in 2002, gave birth to the male calf on June 2, 2014. This is a major event for the Park as Muskox are difficult to breed due to high neonatal mortality rates. The last Muskox calf to survive until adulthood in the UK was born in 1992.

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Last year, Belle the Muskox calf sadly passed away at Highland Wildlife Park at around five months old due to an injury inflicted by one of her parents. Musk-ox calves are notoriously difficult to rear in captivity as their weak immune systems means that they are highly susceptible to disease and infection, and the inherent aggressiveness of the adults further complicates the situation. This year keepers are working hard to make sure this new arrival has a successful outcome. 

Douglas Richardson, Head of Living Collections at Highland Wildlife Park, said:

“Although we are very pleased with our latest Muskox calf, we are certainly not out of the woods yet and have a long way to go before we can confidently say that we have been successful.  He is growing well and is being closely monitored by his keepers, but the young of the species are extremely fragile and in light of losing last year’s calf, we have altered our husbandry protocol to hopefully avoid a similar problem. He will remain off show with his mother for some time yet and will be named at a later date.”

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An Endangered Przewalksi's Horse Joins the Herd at Highland Wildlife Park

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Keepers at the Highland Wildlife Park in Scotland have just welcomed their first new-born Przewalski’s horse in five years. Born on September 2 to 12-year-old mare Ieda, the plucky little youngster is doing well and can already be seen out and about in the Park's main reserve.

Przewalski’s horses were once extinct in the wild, with the last wild horse seen in 1968. A small captive-bred population was reintroduced in Mongolia's Hustai National Park in the 1990s. There are now around 1,500 Przewalski's horses found in captive breeding programs throughout the world, with a further 250 or so found in the wild. Now listed as Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List, they are the only true wild horse species to survive.

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4 horsePhoto Credits: Highland Widllife Park

Douglas Richardson, head of living collections for the Highland Wildlife Park, says, "Przewalski's horses are one of the best examples of the positive conservation role that good zoos can play. Had it not been for the cooperatively managed captive population, when the species became extinct in the wild in the late 1960s there would have been no reintroduction option that has allowed us to snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat."

See and learn more about the herd after the fold.

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Rare Tiger Cub Duo Thrives at Highland Wildlife Park

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A pair of Amur Tiger cubs, born on May 29, are taking their first steps at the Highland Wildlife Park in Scotland. Though the cubs are mother Dominika's first litter, she has taken well to being a mother. She has been grooming the cubs and keeping a watchful eye on them as they explore their surroundings. Their father, four year-old Marty, is gradually being introduced to the pair through the wire mesh doors. Keepers are confident that he will not present a risk to the cubs.

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The month-old cubs represent a significant birth for the Park. Una Richardson, Head Keeper at the Highland Wildlife Park, comments: "We could not be more delighted that our female Amur Tiger Dominika has given birth to two beautiful cubs. Every animal birth is special, but perhaps none more so than an Amur Tiger birth. Extremely endangered, at one point it was thought only 50 of these big cats still existed in the wild. What makes the birth extra special for us is that Dominika was actually born here at the Highland Wildlife Park in May 2009."

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Dominika and Marty were paired through a recommendation by the European Zoo Association's Amur Tiger breeding program. Amur Tigers are Endangered, with only 350-450 individuals remaining in the wild. While the wild population is possibly stable, the species continues to be threatened by poaching and habitat destruction.

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Photo Credits; Jan Morse (1), Alex Riddell (2,3,4)