An ambitious new strategy has been launched by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) which aims to reverse the decline of at least 50 species over the next eight years.
The wildlife conservation charity has also pledged to significantly increase the number of people and communities protecting nature.
Chief executive David Field said, “With more than a million species at risk of extinction, our planet’s life support system is in crisis and the time to act is now.
“The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland has an important role to play because our teams have incredible expertise in conservation science and animal care.
“A perfect example is the ground-breaking Saving Wildcats project we are leading at Highland Wildlife Park, working with national and international partners to restore Scotland’s critically endangered wildcat population by breeding and releasing wildcats into carefully selected locations in the Cairngorms National Park.
“Our pledge is to reverse the decline of at least 50 species by 2030, including wildcats, pine hoverflies and pond mud snails in Scotland. We will also develop plans to protect other native Scottish species.
“Internationally, the species we are working with partners to protect include chimpanzees in Uganda, giant anteaters and giant armadillos in Brazil and Pallas’s cats in Central Asia.”
The charity’s 2030 strategy also aims to create deeper connections with nature for more than a million people.
“People protect and value what they love and understand, so experiencing nature in person is incredibly important,” said Field.
“I have worked in zoos and in conservation for more than 30 years and seeing animals up closestill has an amazing ability to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up in excitement.
“Edinburgh Zoo and Highland Wildlife Park are our gateways to the natural world which enable millions of people to experience wildlife in person.This is very important because few people will ever have the hugely expensive luxury of seeing animals like giraffes, sloths and polar bears in the wild.
“Through our zoos and our outreach programmes, we are going to create deeper connections with nature for more than a million people, which we will be able to measure to demonstrate our impact.
Field said the approach by RZSS recognises the vital role zoos have in strengthening communities.
“Nature needs us all more than ever and stronger communities have a greater capacity to care for wildlife,” he said.
“Zoos are in a unique position to help people realise the mental and physical health and wellbeing benefits of being close to wildlife. This is why we are pledging to enable more than 100 communities to better protect nature. These will be communities in our zoos, including our members and volunteers, in Scotland and where we work around the world.
“Together, we can help create a world where nature is protected, valued and loved.”
The new RZSS strategy is available online at rzss.org.uk/about