RZSS Conservation Programmes - An introduction to RZSS...

17/12/2016 in Conservation

It has been three months since I joined the conservation team at RZSS and what a three months they have been. The variety of projects that the Society undertakes and supports is phenomenal and has brought me close to species ranging from Scottish hoverflies to Brazilian armadillos to Amur tigers and everything in between. Here are a few of my personal highlights so far, learning about the Pantanal, Scottish beavers and native invertebrates.

Ben Harrower meets Danilo Kluyber

Above: meeting Danilo Klubyer, Giant Armadillo Conservation Project veterinarian

The Pantanal is one of the world’s most diverse biomes and is where the society supports the Giant Armadillo Conservation Project. In November one of the projects vets, Danilo Klubyer, came over to Edinburgh Zoo to visit the society and present his research. Danilo has been involved with the project since its conception back in 2010, and his passion for his work was apparent in our conversations as well as the presentations he delivered to RZSS staff. Even within a relatively short time, the project has discovered much about what was previously a little known species, such as their role as ecosystem engineers and disease transmission. The ground breaking work of the project inspired Maramedia (Highlands: Scotland’s Wild Heart, Hebrides: Islands on the Edge) to film a documentary on the giant armadillo in the Pantanal. During Danilo’s recent visit, he spent time with the production team looking over some of the footage and early edit. The documentary ‘Hotel Armadillo’, is scheduled to hit our screens early in the New Year, and we look forward to sharing more news on this nearer the time. Of course, Danilo couldn’t leave without meeting one of the armadillos here at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo. Inti, a Southern three-banded armadillo pictured below, might be substantially smaller than the giant armadillo but more than makes up for it in character!

Camera trap set up in Knapdale

Above: Setting up a camera trap to survey beavers in Knapdale.

From the wetlands of Brazil to fantastic news for a landmark project closer to home. My first two weeks in the role involved surveying Knapdale for range and distribution of the beaver population there and similar surveys will take place next year to help inform future management decisions. The surveys involved a mixture of land and boat-based observations and were a great grounding for the news that would soon follow.

On the 24 November the Scottish government announced that beavers were to be officially recognised once more as a native species of Scotland. After being hunted to extinction on these shores 400 years ago, RZSS, a key partner in the Scottish Beaver Trial, remain committed to ensuring that this species have a bright future in Scotland. I look forward to updating you with further news on this front as further decisions are made in the New Year.

RZSS invertebrate facility

Above: RZSS native invertebrate facility at Edinburgh Zoo

We have also recently been preparing for the arrival of Swedish pine hoverfly to the Zoo. This captive breeding programme combines expertise from both the conservation and the living collections department with the aim to improve husbandry guidelines. The Scottish pine hoverfly population is critically endangered with very few now seen in the wild. The efforts to breed the Swedish hoverfly will help inform research for this native species that is on the brink of extinction.

All too often invertebrates are overlooked in favour of more charismatic species such as tigers, pandas and wildcats. The facility at Edinburgh Zoo has recently been upgraded as part of a new focus on native invertebrate species most at risk. In the coming years RZSS plans work with other native fly, beetle and snail species.

All in all, it has been a fantastic first few months at RZSS, and even in this short time it feels like much has been achieved. There are many exciting projects planned in 2017 and I look forward to sharing these with you in my next blog.

You can follow RZSS and Edinburgh Zoos’ social media channels for updates on the projects discussed here and many more… For now, goodbye and have a Happy Christmas!



Ben Harrower

RZSS Conservation Programme Manager



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