Sadly, our natural environment is in crisis with one million species on the brink of extinction and almost half our ecosystems in decline. The evidence is over-whelming that human activities are behind nature’s rapid decline, caused by deforestation and development, hunting and poaching, the destruction of our seas and oceans, pollution and, of course, climate change.
As things stand, we are at risk of destroying our own life-support machine.
Faced with these threats, we also have an opportunity. Because recognising that there is no future without nature is also to acknowledge the need to act now – and together.
As our planet’s biodiversity declines at an alarming rate, modern-day zoos and wildlife conservation charities like the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) are more relevant than ever before.
At Edinburgh Zoo and Highland Wildlife Park, we foster deep and lasting connections with nature, provide safe havens and support breeding programmes which are vital to the very survival of threatened species.
Through education, we inspire the next generation of conservationists, while ground-breaking science and research enables us to learn more about the incredible animals in our care and inform measures to help safeguard species in the wild across the globe.
We also focus on native species here in Scotland where we worked with the Scottish Wildlife Trust to bring beavers back after 400 years and are at the forefront of efforts with partners to save the pine hoverfly and prevent the extinction of wildcats.
Now we are planning to build Scotland’s Wildlife Discovery Centre at Highland Wildlife Park near Aviemore and create a truly special, world class experience which will play a pivotal role in inspiring more children, young people and local communities to protect and connect with nature and wildlife.
Soon we hope to confirm planning permission for three hubs which have been designed to take visitors on a journey through the stories of Scotland’s people, places, and animals, as well as the links which bring them all together.
Our discovery hub will be an immersive experience, asking questions, challenging perceptions and encouraging promises to help protect wildlife and nature. Innovative digital technology will help create stronger connections and boost engagement from people of all ages.
The learning hub will enable children, young people and our local communities to learn about Scotland’s wildlife heritage through expanded activity plans including STEAM learning, outdoor learning and citizen science.
And in the perfect location to make the most of our stunning setting in the incredible Cairngorms National Park, the hilltop hub will showcase the ground-breaking wildlife conservation initiatives taking place right now with a huge range of partners and supporters.
This project will transform our Highland Wildlife Park, encouraging more visitors from across the UK and the world, supporting the local economy and taking action to reverse the growing disconnection between people and nature.
It is a frightening reality that the world’s biodiversity is vanishing fast but by working together, inspiring and empowering communities, we can make a difference.
Scotland’s Wildlife Discovery Centre is funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund and has received an intention to award from the Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund, led by NatureScot and supported the European Development Fund (ERDF), alongside support from Highlands and Islands Enterprise, SSE Renewables as well as players of People's Postcode Lottery and many RZSS supporters.
There is still time to add your name to our Wildlife Wall of Thanks by giving your donation at rzss.org.uk/support-scotlands-wildlife-discovery-centre
Beccy Angus, Head of Discovery and Learning at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.