ONE of Scotland’s most popular visitor attractions, Edinburgh Zoo, marks its 100th anniversary today with a series of celebration events – and a call from the chief executive for children to be given the chance to reconnect to the natural world.
First opened on 22 July 1913, the zoo has grown to become one of the most successful conservation centres in the world and the arrival of giant pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang has seen visitor numbers rocket.
Chief executive Chris West said the zoo’s founder, Thomas Gillespie, would have been proud of the recent changes and success.
“Gillespie’s original vision was to foster and develop an interest in and knowledge of animal life, which is not far off from our current aims today,” he said.
“In a world that is increasingly overpopulated with decreasing biodiversity and viable habitats, Edinburgh Zoo’s future is to play a crucial role in raising awareness amongst its visitors about the importance of securing a future for all species, including our own.
“The zoo will also continue to expand its work on groundbreaking conservation projects both within Scotland and on an international level.”
Writing in The Scotsman today, Mr West also said he hoped the zoo could address the growing problem of “nature deficit disorder”, where children living in cities are deprived of the chance to spend time in the wild.
As part of today’s events, a metre-high “100” sign will be placed in Penguins Rock, the new enclosure revamped for the centenary year. There will also be 100 toy pandas hidden for visitors to find and keep.
Actor John Hannah will lead a private opening of the renovated Koala Territory, home to the UK’s only koalas, before it opens to the public this afternoon.
Jeremy Peat, chairman of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, said: “It is exciting to look forward to the zoo’s next 100 years and anticipate its future achievements for education, conservation and science.
“It is a very special occasion to be able to mark this grand old lady zoo’s centenary. It is astounding to think that 100 years ago today the zoo opened its doors to an inquisitive, marvelling public who had never before had the opportunity to see such an incredible array of animals.
“There has been a world of change over the past century and yet the zoo has adapted and flourished. Determination, progressive thinking, expert animal husbandry skills and the formalising of education within the Zoo have all helped lead us to where we are today.”