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HRH The Princess Royal visits Edinburgh Zoo to celebrate RZSS WildGenes and giraffe conservation

25/01/2023 in Edinburgh Zoo

HRH The Princess Royal visited Edinburgh Zoo last week to celebrate over ten years of ground-breaking research at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s WildGenes laboratory and the extension of a vital partnership to protect giraffes in the wild. 

The wildlife conservation charity’s royal patron enjoyed a tour of the UK’s only zoo-based conservation genetics lab and learned about the partnership between RZSS, the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) and Glenmorangie Single Malt Scotch Whisky which brought giraffes back to the capital in 2021 and supports giraffe translocations in Uganda. 

A plaque was unveiled by Her Royal Highness to mark the occasion and commemorate more than a decade of work by RZSS scientists who have been translating genetic data into practical conservation action for endangered animals around the globe since 2010. 

Dr Helen Senn, head of conservation and sciences programmes at RZSS, said, “It was wonderful to welcome our royal patron to the zoo to celebrate the achievements of RZSS WildGenes alongside our charity’s partnership with GCF and Glenmorangie, which has been extended for another three years. 

“There are three levels of biodiversity to support if we hope to reverse the extinction crisis facing our planet. Alongside the diversity of ecosystems and species, genetics is a crucial piece of the puzzle and being based at Edinburgh Zoo gives our scientists unique opportunities to develop critical tools and techniques to share with conservation practitioners worldwide.  

“From studying capercallie populations in the Highlands to evaluating tiger diets in Nepal, we have found that working together across different organisations and communities is the only way to make real progress in saving wildlife. We are thrilled to be able to share our expertise with GCF and deliver a joint programme of field conservation, genetics and veterinary projects across the continent of Africa.” 

Hamish Torrie, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at Glenmorangie, said, “We are delighted to continue our partnership with RZSS and GCF, supporting the conservation work of the giraffe. Glenmorangie Distillery’s giraffe-high stills are the reason its single malt whisky is so light and fruity, so we are dedicated to helping conserve this endangered animal for the future. Our commitment to this partnership allows for further investment into genetic research of the giraffe across Africa, and to help grow giraffe populations across the continent.” 

Dr Julian and Stephanie Fennessy from the Giraffe Conservation Foundation sent a short video message from their office in Windhoek, Namibia, for the event. "GCF currently works in 18 African countries and our work has an impact on over 100 million acres of giraffe habitat. For a small organization, such impact is only possible through strong partnerships. Together we can stand tall for giraffe and make a difference." said Stephanie Fennessy, the GCF Executive Director.  

RZSS has pledged to reverse the decline of at least 50 species by 2030 to help create a world where nature is protected, valued and loved. The charity plans to expand the work and facilities of RZSS WildGenes so its innovative research can be used by an even wider range of conservation programmes around the world.  

The work of RZSS WildGenes is made possible thanks to players of People’s Postcode Lottery alongside many other partners and supporters. 

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