Tag Archives: edinburgh zoo

When the last bee died

Foodie Festival BloggerOn 7th August, I went to the first day of the Foodies Festival in Inverleith Park.

If you haven’t been, you should: it was a fantastic day out “celebrating its 10th anniversary in Edinburgh with a three-day showcase of Scotland’s finest culinary talents and regional produce”. (To be clear upfront, my free ticket was provided by Lanyard Media, but I got no instructions from them what to say or what to blog about.)

Foodies Festival Inverleith ParkEdinburgh is full of festivals, but I unashamedly love this one: so much good food and drink to celebrate and share.

One of the free lectures for Friday was on urban beekeeping, by Brian Pool, a third-generation professional beekeeper, who teaches beekeeping at the Secret Herb Garden and is Beekeeper in Residence at Edinburgh Zoo (where they’re having a Bee Festival on 29th August, free to anyone who visits the Zoo that day).

I learned that the British black honey-bee (Apis mellifera mellifera) is more aggressive and more inclined to sting if provoked than the mellower Italian honey-bee (Apis mellifera ligustica) which Brian Pool attributes to the Italian bee expecting to find honey all year round, breeding to huge numbers within the hive and therefore needing to be fed by the beekeeper: whereas British bees (“hardier and have smaller populations going into winter, so they need less food to survive, and they also have fewer mouths to feed during a cold spring snap” says Terry Clare, president of the Bee Improvement and Bee Breeders’ Association) are better at saving honey for a rainy day.
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Filed under About Food, Climate Change, Honey, Sustainable Politics

Happy Hallowe’en

In Edinburgh tonight, kids will be knocking on their neighbours’ doors and singing an irritating little jingle:

Hallowe’en is coming, the geese are getting fat,
please put a penny in the old man’s hat.
If you haven’t got a penny a ha’penny will do,
if you haven’t got a ha’penny then god bless you!

Hallowe'en cake - Good Gracious CakesThis irritates me because the first I ever heard of this as a Hallowe’en tradition was 20 years ago: Wikipedia claims that the song “Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat” was first popularised in 1960 in an album The Last Month of the Year by an American folk-singing group “The Kingston Trio”, Dave Guard, Bob Shane, and Nick Reynolds: and reappeared in Muppets and in Charlie Brown Christmas films. But that seems – typically for Hallowe’en – a very American-orientated explanation: the nursery rhyme is much older than the 20th century and it was always Christmas, not Hallowe’en.

According to multiple websites the “tradition” of singing this particular rhyme is from Belfast/Northern Ireland: how it spread from there to the rest of the UK is unexplained and how a much older Christmas rhyme turned into a Hallowe’en rhyme doesn’t seem to have been questioned by anyone.
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Filed under About Food, Other stuff on the Internet I like, Scottish Culture

Penguins, Pandas, Poo and Spin

At the beginning of the year, Edinburgh Zoo had a bit of a public relations meltdown, to put it mildly. Their staff were unhappy, senior management were being accused of serious crimes, and even the news that they’d got pandas wasn’t working the magic touch they hoped for.

Gary Wilson designed Rainbow Landings, a popular exhibit which brought in a significant amount of revenue. It was free to walk through the enclosure and watch the flock of rainbow lorikeets, the honey eaters, and the potoroos: and little tubs of nectar to feed the birds cost £1 – and who can resist having a beautiful bird fearlessly perching on your hand? But apparently, Mr Wilson forgot that birds produce crap. Lots of crap. He designed Rainbow Landings without drains in the concrete floor. So every morning, before the exhibit could be opened to the public, keepers had to shovel all the guano into sacks and physically carry it out of the building. And it had to close permanently last year.

The panda enclosure (for which Edinburgh Zoo forgot to get planning permission) was built where Mercedes the polar bear used to live, not far from the penguin enclosure. The path on which visitors to see the pandas have to queue, runs right by the Rockhopper penguin enclosure. And it appears that Gary Wilson, once again, forgot that birds crap: the visitors are getting shat on:

A 41-year-old, who was standing in the panda queue on Sunday said: “We were queuing to see the pandas when a man in front shouted out in surprise that his jacket had been hit by a big dollop of penguin poo. It just missed me and my family and it was really oily and stank of fish. It was disgusting. It looked like it would be really hard to clean off. It was quite funny but the zoo should do something so it doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

Have to admit, though, they’ve done a much better job of spinning this than they were doing a year ago.

The penguins used to be the most popular attraction at Edinburgh Zoo, but they have been knocked off their perch by the arrival of Sunshine and Sweetie, the giant pandas from China.

It appears they have been taking their revenge and it is the visitors queuing to see the pandas who are suffering.

Glass walls are going up around that part of the penguin enclosure – but really, Gary Wilson may be the director of business operations and not a keeper, but if he’s responsible for enclosure design, someone should grind it into his head that everyone poops – watch the video:

I love Edinburgh Zoo, though. I love it that the keepers have come up with a Christmas present wish list for their animals: penguins love chasing bubbles and bright reflections, so

Top of their Christmas list would be bubble machines, or CDs and DVDs for keepers to string up. ….

If granny’s knitting isn’t quite to size, or you’ve had one too many festive jumpers adorned with snowmen and reindeer, spare a thought for our chimpanzees and other primates who love to use them as snuggle blankets, or just generally tare them to shreds – however the mood takes them! In particular, our Sun bear brothers love boomer balls, the larger the better, and rubber Kong chew toys.

Non-toxic paint, canvasses and brushes even go down well with our macaws who love to get creative, and our parrots, who love the noise, can offer you a new home for discarded baby rattles.

Old newspapers, telephone directories or any cardboard tubes, ropes of natural material and of course your ex-Christmas tree, would all be welcome. Get in touch with the Edinburgh Zoo Enrichment Team on enrichment@rzss.org.uk., before sending the items in.


Filed under Edinburgh Zoo