Zoo plans revamp to attract visitors

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EDINBURGH Zoo has unveiled a major upgrade plan in a bid to attract new visitors.

The park has been dogged by recent financial woes and forced to scrap some popular attractions and look at cutting staff.

And in 2010 the Edinburgh attraction recorded poorer than hoped for visitor figures.

But now bosses are hopeful that fortunes are set to change with a £760,000 investment into redevelopments to the entrance, gift shop and catering facilities – set to begin next week.

Gary Wilson, interim chief operating officer for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), said: “Our redevelopments have been designed to bring the animal experience into all areas of the Zoo. 

“With this investment from the Society and from Compass Group, our improvements will further enhance our status as a world class visitor attraction.  

“We expect minimal inconvenience to our visitors, with the majority of the redevelopments planned to take place over a 12 week period. 

“Temporary entrances and exits will be in place from Tuesday 15th February and in the interim there will be two temporary ticket offices in place, both at the Zoo’s vehicle gate and also at the top of the main entrance to the car park. 

“Temporary signage to advise visitors of these changes will be displayed clearly round the Zoo.  The Zoo Gift Shop will be housed in the Budongo Trail during the redevelopment work.”

In October the zoo culled two healthy, endangered Red River Hog piglets, Sammi and Becca, because they were “surplus to requirement.”

The piglets were born at the zoo in 2009 as part of a European breeding project aimed at boosting their species’ dwindling numbers.

And later in the same month the zoo was forced to close down its popular Rainbow Landings parrot display to save costs.

The £350,000 enclosure allowed visitors to hold and feed dozens of Rainbow Lorikeets.

The arrival of two giant pandas to the zoo later this year has also sparked controversy.

But James Stewart, head of finance at the RZSS said that the improvements will not take any money away from the animals.

He said: “The RZSS has invested a total of £760K into these redevelopments.  The funds allocated to these improvements will absolutely not take money away from redevelopments planned in relation to the animal side of Edinburgh Zoo, many of which are already in place and underway.”

The new entrance is set to be moved closer to the car parking facilities and the retail outlet will be transferred to the current location of the old gallery and part of the old reception area. 

The ‘wild beyond’ is set to feature heavily in the new design, with an overhead contemporary interpretation of a jungle canopy and a gigantic budongo tree with outstretched branches

Monitors  will also stream live animal cams, continuous wording story boards and visuals all working to bring the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s (RZSS) conservation work to life.

The gift shop will also offer a wider range of items suited for all ages.

And leading contractor, Compass Group, has been appointed to provide all catering facilities at the Zoo.

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