The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) has protected threatened species in Scotland and around the world for over 100 years. At Edinburgh Zoo and Highland Wildlife Park, the wildlife conservation charity's diverse and dedicated teams care for almost 3,000 amazing animals and carry out cutting-edge science and research.
Edinburgh Zoo visitors could walk straight past the RZSS WildGenes laboratory, tucked away behind the rhino house, without realising the scale of frontline conservation work going on inside.
Supported by players of People's Postcode Lottery, this cutting-edge lab has links to an incredible range of worldwide projects and direct conservation action. It is the only one of its kind in the UK.
Since opening in 2010, RZSS WildGenes has made genetic research more accessible to conservation practitioners. The expert team use DNA, the 'instruction manual' that makes you who you are, to find patterns within and between the individuals, families or populations of endangered species. It then uses this to inform conservation efforts.
Alongside other information, including field surveys, behavioural monitoring and captive breeding, genetic data can help people and organisations better understand a species' conservation needs.
RZSS collaborates with a wide range of partners on an international scale, including other conservation organisations, university researchers, regional agencies and government bodies. As most animals do not observe national boundaries, it is crucial to build links across borders and share knowledge through these networks.
Following a new partnership with the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF), RZSS WildGenes will be supporting vital work to protect giraffes in the wild, as numbers have declined by almost 30% since the 1980s due to habitat loss and poaching.
As well as raising awareness for the plight of the species through a brand-new giraffe habitat at Edinburgh Zoo, the RZSS team will be helping GCF to understand the success of giraffe reintroductions across Uganda by analysing samples from translocated individuals.
RZSS has a long history of leading conservation action in Africa through work in the Budongo Forest with chimpanzees, research on threatened African antelope species and its involvement with the Conservation Research and Action for Amphibians of Uganda and Cameroon project. Now, its genetics team will help inform GCF's work in Uganda, supporting shared visions to restore giraffe populations, benefit local communities and protect the threatened wild places that a diverse range of wildlife depends on.
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