A crowdfunding campaign is launching today to help build a new £5.5 million visitor and education centre at the Highland Wildlife Park.
It is hoped £50,000 can be raised towards creating Scotland’s Wildlife Discovery Centre at the Kincraig attraction which will be a learning ‘gateway’ to the Cairngorms, helping people to connect with and protect the environment as well as endangered species.
From 5am today people can enter a prize draw, with one lucky supporter set to ‘win the keys’ to the park and feed the animals, including polar bears, tigers and snow leopards.
This will be part of an after-hours, behind-the-scenes visit with David Field, CEO of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) which runs the site and Edinburgh Zoo.
Prize draw tickets are £5 and entries can be made here. The offer closes on May 31.
Mr Field said it is the perfect time to build the new centre with a worldwide focus on protecting the environment.
He said: “This incredible initiative will be able to provide a real sense of the place, people and animals of the amazing Cairngorms. Visitors will be able to learn and experience first-hand the conservation work we are doing and experience the beauty of the Cairngorms environment.
“To care for it we need to understand it, but first we need to love it and this will give us a real opportunity to love it.
“Every prize draw ticket bought by people who love nature and animals takes us one step closer to making Scotland’s Wildlife Discovery Centre a reality at Highland Wildlife Park.”
The project has already attracted £980,000 from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), managed by the Scottish Government and awarded through the Natural Cultural and Heritage Fund, led by NatureScot. It is also supported by pledges from Highlands and Islands Enterprise and SSE Renewables.
In addition, Mr Field said RZSS is at the final stage of a funding application to the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
The new centre will be a series of hubs spread across the existing park. It is hoped work can start later this year or early 2022 with opening expected by 2023.
As well as providing visitors to the park with a greater insight into the animals and environment, it will provide an outreach service to community and school groups.
Mr Field added: “Our natural environment is in crisis, with one million species on the brink of extinction and almost half our ecosystems in decline.
“Highland Wildlife Park is loved by people in Scotland, throughout the UK and across the globe. With their help, we want to create a truly special, world class experience here in the spectacular Cairngorms National Park.
“All of the money raised from entry to our prize draw will go towards building Scotland’s Wildlife Discovery Centre and a series of wildlife discovery hubs at Highland Wildlife Park, which will play a pivotal role in inspiring more people to protect and connect with nature and wildlife.
Once in a lifetime experience
“Everyone who enters will be in with the chance of winning exclusive, after-hours access to the park with a guided tour with me and the opportunity to feed some of our wonderful animals
“Our winner could pick our male snow leopard Koshi, Scotland’s only polar bears, Victoria, Walker and Arktos, our Amur tiger Botzman, or some of our other fantastic animals.
“This is a chance to win a once-in-a-lifetime experience and at the same time help protect our natural world.”
Rare animals at the Highland Wildlife Park already help conservation research and efforts to protect endangered species around the world.
RZSS works with National Museums Scotland in developing the UK’s first national zoological biobank.
RZSS is also one of four hubs, alongside those in Denmark, Belgium and Germany, of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) biobank. This hosts genetic resources from animals held in EAZA institutions across Europe and the Middle East.
The Highland Wildlife Park’s contribution includes samples from rare animals such as wildcat, wolves, capercaillie and pine hoverfly.
Last month the park welcomed the arrival of the two endangered Przewalski’s horses.
Every £5 donation made counts as one entry into the prize draw.
One winner will be chosen and can bring three guests (exceptions can be made for additional children to attend).