£6.5 million wildlife discovery centre to open at Highland Wildlife Park

Posted 21 Jun 2024

Two children playing an interactive game inside Scotland's WIldlife Discovery Centre

IMAGE: Laura Moore 2024

Visitors to the Cairngorms National Park can now learn about nature and how they can save wildlife following the completion of Scotland’s Wildlife Discovery Centre.

Based at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s (RZSS) Highland Wildlife Park, the £6.5 million project comprises three new buildings, an ambitious community outreach programme and a biodiversity action plan to help protect native species.

Ben Supple, the wildlife conservation charity’s deputy chief executive, said, “With one in nine species at risk of extinction in Scotland and a million across the globe, it is more important than ever to engage and inspire people to create a world where nature is protected, valued and loved.

“We are incredibly proud to open the doors to the Scotland’s Wildlife Discovery Centre project, which includes an interactive exhibition, a hilltop den where we will tell stories about how we work with partners to restore species, and new classrooms to support STEM learning and provide space to engage local communities with the natural world.

“A fantastic example is how we will place visitors at the heart of conservation as they enjoy 360-degree views of the wildcat breeding centre at Highland Wildlife Park and into the Cairngorms, where wildcats are being released as part of the Saving Wildcats partnership led by RZSS.”

Funding for the project will deliver new education and community jobs to broaden inclusion and access to nature. It will also help protect native species found at Highland Wildlife Park.

“Access to nature can have tremendously powerful mental and physical health and wellbeing benefits and this project will help more people and communities experience the joys of being close to wildlife,” said Supple.

“We are very grateful for the funding we have received, which has enabled us to considerably increase the size of our education and community team. Our aim will be to reach out to various, diverse communities which experience barriers to accessing nature, including poverty, loneliness and disabilities.

“The project has also helped to fund a biodiversity action plan to discover and protect native species at Highland Wildlife Park such as the small scabious mining bee.” 

Notes to Editors


Hi-res images can be found at - https://www.dropbox.com/scl/fo/lp3foru9q976d11m20yqp/AFLVVz-VlANOKLE3EMPm640?rlkey=cw7tfzf1ioi6la8hl6rnkdx01&st=6827uhpw&dl=0  

For more information please contact comms@rzss.org.uk 

Additional quote

NatureScot's Deputy Director of Nature & Climate Change, Eileen Stuart said: "We are pleased to see Scotland's Wildlife Discovery Centre open its doors today, with our support given through European Regional Development Funding. These buildings allow more visitors to experience meaningful connections with the wildlife that surrounds them, inspiring them to care more deeply for the nature on their doorstep as well as understanding the impacts on cold-environment animals from around the world."

Notes to editor:

  • The Scotland’s Wildlife Discovery Centre Project is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund led by NatureScot, and many other generous funders.    
  • An Doras: The Gateway (UN DOH-rus) (like gateway- dorus- door- can be a placename too- there is a place in Strathnairn called Dorus nan Gaidheal- the gateway or door of the Gaels)

    An immersive and exciting space connecting amazing global species to wonderful Scottish wildlife through games, interactives, technology and stories of the past, present and future, animals, people and places.

  • A' Chaonnag: Learning Hive (A' CH UH- nyak) (Beehive- a hive of buzzing learning activity)

    This is the big building you’ll see on top of the hill as you come into the park which will provide much-needed space, and enable groups and communities to explore the world of wildlife, removing barriers and accessible programmes to connect people to nature and conservation through engaging and adaptable sessions, STEM, outdoor learning and citizen science.

  • An Saobhaidh: Conservation Den (UN SUH-vee) (Fox Den- a common placename, seen on many maps- a safe place, a place to nurture before setting out into the world)

    This space offers 360 degree views of the landscape, looking into the area of the park where captive wildcats are bred for release into the wild and then out into the unique habitats of the Cairngorms. In the den visitors can sit, take a moment, explore the amazing conservation work that is happening right here, right now including all about why wildcats in Scotland are on the brink of extinction and how RZSS and partners are working together to save the species.

About Saving Wildcats (#SWAforLIFE)

Saving Wildcats (#SWAforLife) is a European partnership project dedicated to Scottish wildcat conservation and recovery. We aim to prevent the extinction of wildcats in Scotland by breeding and releasing them into the wild.