Zoo picks up 'ambassador' to raise interest in conservation

ONE of Scotland's most senior bankers has been appointed "ambassador" for Edinburgh Zoo to promote the attraction's conservation work.

John Spence, the former chief executive of Lloyds TSB Scotland, was last night named as the new president of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, the charity which runs the zoo.

Originally from Portobello, the lifelong supporter of the zoo retired from the bank last year after winning the Prince of Wales's Business Ambassadors Award in 2005.

He is almost totally blind, a degenerative disease having slowly taken away his eyesight over the last 15 years.

As president of the charity he will promote the work carried out across Scotland, including the implementation of a 58 million masterplan designed to bring the zoo into the 21st century.

Describing his role as that of an ambassador for the society, Mr Spence said he wanted to make people realise the zoo was not just an attraction for children.

And he believes promoting the conservation message of the zoo, which works to protect endangered animals around the world, is the best way to help keep people members for life.

Mr Spence, 55, who now lives in Chelmsford, was officially appointed at the society's AGM last night, taking over the role from John Grant, who has held the post for the last ten years.

A regular visitor to the zoo as a child, Mr Spence's favourite memories of the attraction are of watching the world-famous penguin parade and visiting the sea lions. He visited the zoo at least once a year with his children even after moving to England, and is now desperate to make sure people continue to come back even after their children have grown up.

He said: "The zoo is what allows the society to carry out its conservation work around the world, and it is also a great way for people to learn about the importance of that work and about the endangered animals we help.

"It is important to me to try to get more people to see that it is not just an attraction for kids, but somewhere that adults can come and continue to learn about all the animals we have."

A former Watsonian who was educated at Trinity College in Dublin, Mr Spence currently sits on a number of boards including HM Revenue and Customs and spirits company Edrington.

David Windmill, the society's chief executive, said: "We are delighted to welcome John Spence to the society. These are exciting times with the development of our Budongo project, the first part of Edinburgh Zoo's masterplan, and it's central to our success as a national organisation to have a strong figurehead."gedwards@edinburghnews.com