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‘It has given such an amazing focus for the future’: Creation of Scotland’s Wildlife Discovery Centre reaches major milestone

Beccy Angus, head of discovery and Learning with the RSZS one the site of one of the proposed new discovery hubs which recently got planning permission
Beccy Angus, head of discovery and Learning with the RSZS one the site of one of the proposed new discovery hubs which recently got planning permission

Proprietors of the Highland Wildlife Park are hoping to leave a lasting impression on future visitors as plans for Scotland’s Wildlife Discovery Centre are given the seal of approval.

Contractors are expected to break ground in June, constructing three discovery hubs across the Kincraig-based park.

Planners from the Cairngorm National Park Authority (CNPA) pledged their support for the development earlier this month.

The centres – which will cost more than £2.25million to construct – will form as a learning gateway to the Cairngorms, connecting visitors with the natural world.

It’s hoped the works will take a year to complete, ahead of doors opening in 2023.

A public contract has now been issued by RZSS in hopes of finding viable tenders to take on the project.

Beccy Angus, head of discovery and learning says securing planning approval has been three years in the making; the first of many milestones to come for the charity.

Picture shows designs for the new wildlife discovery centre.

Bringing Scotland’s wildlife discovery centre to life

“We are absolutely thrilled; just so excited,” she said.

“With all the hard work that’s gone into it, to actually know that we are going to see it come to life, it’s fantastic.

“Crossing fingers and touching wood we would hope to start construction by June time and we hope to be able to open the following year.

“There will be a bit of phasing going on, just to make sure that the disruption to the park itself and to any of the animals, is as minimal as possible so we can keep the park open and people can visit, explore and have a lovely day out.

“The hubs are all so different, with a different purpose, meaning and context and slightly different audiences.

“I actually can’t wait until it’s done and it’s open. I think that’s going to be amazing; seeing the first visitors visit and explore and watch how they interact with them.”

She added: “It’s going to give the park the opportunity to redevelop and thrive.

“It has given such an amazing focus for the future and for not just the park but the area and surrounding communities.”

Scotland’s Wildlife Discovery Centre

Scotland’s Wildlife Discovery Centre will consist of a series of new wildlife discovery hubs spread out across the existing park, near Aviemore.

The main discovery hub will form an extension to the park’s existing visitor centre, located at the centre of the grounds.

To facilitate the new build, the Eurasian Crane enclosure will be moved to a different area; with discussions underway in finding them a forever home on the grounds.

A new learning hub will be built on the site of the park’s existing education centre.

Replacing the park’s existing education building, located to the south of the park, will be a new learning centre.

A new conservation centre will also be opened on the hilltop overlooking the park, close to the existing snow leopard enclosure.

Each building will feature immersive experiences and digital technology to challenge visitors, inspire action and encourage learning.

Officials hope the hubs will form a “gateway to both the park and to all those wonderful native animals and the Cairngorms.”

Meanwhile, Ms Angus said the main aim is to connect visitors with the “bigger picture,” the natural world.

She said: “One of the things we wanted to do was create those connections between people and nature.

“We are in the heart of the Cairngorms and wherever you look you can’t get away from the views. It’s the most beautiful landscape and to be able to bring it back home, it’s priceless.

“It’s about making sure that our visitors don’t think that any of the things we are talking about are limited to our sites and animals. It’s connecting it to the bigger picture, nature itself.”

‘They are going to be so invaluable’

In July, RZSS was awarded £1.9million in National Lottery funding to support the creation of the development.

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 (ERDF), and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, as well as players of People’s Postcode Lottery and SSE Renewables.

Each building will feature immersive experiences and digital technology to challenge visitors, inspire action and encourage learning.

Developers say that without the funding, the development would never make it off the ground.

Ms Angus feels the hubs will not only be invaluable for the park but helping to spread the wealth to businesses and the local economy.

She said: “I think they are going to be so invaluable. The messages about nature and how we are part of it and help support it, especially now, are so important. There isn’t a more important time than now.

“This centre helps deliver those messages in a really lovely and engaging way; in a way where people can see the wonderful animals and connect it to a story and their lives as well.

“I don’t think we have the space to do this without these discovery hubs.

“One of the things we want to make sure of is that, it’s a real collaborative thing and the idea that if you are here for half a day or if you’re here for a week, there are a whole load of wonderful things you can do and experience in this general area.”

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