2021 was another incredible and challenging year for our charity. Despite closing our gates for three months, continued restrictions and some very stormy weather, we had lots to celebrate.
At the start of the year, while we could not welcome visitors, our teams were still hard at work. The carnivore keepers introduced our polar bears and tigers for the breeding season and the hoofstock section welcomed several new arrivals, including Przewalski’s horse foals, Mishmi takin and European bison calves as well as red, white-lipped and Bukhara deer calves.
After keeping our fingers crossed for a few months, we were delighted when our female Amur tiger Dominika gave birth to triplets in May. Now at six months old, the cubs’ personalities are blossoming. Nishka and Layla are always together and keeping mum on her toes. Little Aleksander is quieter, spending more time with Dominika and slowly getting braver.
In July, we shared an exciting funding milestone when the National Lottery Heritage Fund announced a £1.9m investment to help create Scotland’s Wildlife Discovery Centre at the park. With innovative spaces and interpretation showcasing Scotland’s native species and conservation efforts across the Cairngorms, the centre will inspire and empower young people and communities to help protect endangered animals. The project is also supported by intentions to award from the Natural and Cultural Heritage Fund, led by NatureScot and supported by the European Development Fund, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, alongside players of People's Postcode Lottery and SSE Renewables.
In autumn, our charity and the Rare Invertebrates in the Cairngorms project carried out the biggest ever releases to boost Britain’s critically endangered wild population of pine hoverflies. Following a record-breaking breeding season at the park, we released over 3,000 rare larvae in carefully chosen forest habitats in the Cairngorms National Park. We hope the releases marks a turning point for this important pollinator which has not been seen in its adult form in the wild in Britain for over eight years.
There was also much to celebrate in the Saving Wildcats project, which our charity leads. We now have eight breeding enclosures built, with ten wildcats resident in the dedicated conservation breeding for release centre.
As the year came to a close, our keepers heard some familiar squeaks coming from our polar bear cubbing den. We were delighted to confirm Victoria has once again given birth to a cub and, all being well, there will be even more to look forward to this year when mum and cub emerge in spring.
With so many exciting developments over the last 12 months, and huge plans for 2022, we will be looking for more talented and passionate people to help us connect people to nature and save animals from extinction. Keep your eyes peeled for new roles and vacancies based at the park!
It’s only by working together that we can build a brighter future for our planet, so thank to everyone continuing to support Highland Wildlife Park. If the animals could say thank you too, they would!