|Right to left: Iain Valentine, Emma Aitken, Chris West, Karen |
Muller, Douglas Richardson, me, and Crichton Lang
Prof. Chris West was the first of the RZSS speakers to take the floor, beginning by asking us where zoos fit into our damaged world. His hypnotically calm voice delivered sobering statistics about climate change and habitat degredation - not to depress us, but to encite us to action. Zoos, he believes, are part of the long term social and ecological solution. They have come a long way since the cigar-smoking chimps in the bare cages of milleniums past. Now they emphasise wildness and conservation, education and research.
|There was a great turn out, and lots of questions for the|
Iain Valentine laughed awkwardly as he took the stand next, "I'm going to assume you are all fans of the giant panda... you will be by the end of this talk". His enthusiasm was evident, delving straight into the passion that has consumed him and the rest of Scotland in the last couple of years: pandas, of the giant variety. Over 3 billion people across the globe have been following Tian Tian 甜甜 and Yang Guang 阳光 and their time delighting the public in our capital city - that's three times as many as tuned into the 2012 olympics Iain tells us, with evident pride (although if you could combine the two to create a Panda Olympics, I reckon you could quadruple those figures).
To be honest (though I didn't mention it to Iain) I'm personally not a massive fan of the big two-tone bear. I wish them all the best, but I'm more of a Bagheera Kiplingi girl myself. Better yet, make it a tuojiangosaurus.
|Tian Tian got pregnant by artificial insemination in April 2013,|
but lost the foetus. This is apparently common in captive
panda breeding. Edinburgh Zoo is hoping next year will bring
Lastly, Douglas took the podium to tell us about Scottish wildlife ("now that you are all sick of pandas..."). His focus was on the Scottish Wildcat Felis sylvestris grampia, that elusive icon of our wilderness. He bemoaned the equal elusiveness of facts about the feline in the media, where numbers in the wild are quoted anywhere between 30 and 500. The true number he tells us, lies somewhere in the middle.
The main threat to their survival is breeding with pet and feral domestic cats. Douglas pressed home that captivity was the only place their survival as a genetically pure species was 100% guranteed.
His somewhat grumpy demeanor went perfectly with a no-nonsense attitude and dry wit. "If there's one thing I hate its people walking past the wildcats and saying oh look, it looks just like wee Tiddles at home. I'd like to give them the keys and say: go on, stroke it. I dare you."