THE BOSS of Edinburgh Zoo has been suspended after “serious” allegations were made against him.
A probe has been launched following what are described as “anonymous allegations” against chief operating officer Gary Wilson.
The allegations against Mr Wilson, who has also been acting as chief executive have been described as “extremely serious”.
Mr Wilson’s shock suspension comes as the zoo prepares for the arrival of two money-spinning pandas from China.
She said: “We regret to confirm that anonymous allegations have been made against a senior member of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland staff.
“We are treating this extremely seriously and both internal and independent investigations and under way.
“While we can make no further comment at this stage and cannot be drawn on speculation, we can confirm that this is not a police matter.”
The attraction recently announced that 16 staff had been made redundant as the result of a cost-cutting exercise.
Mr Wilson was overseeing all of the zoo’s major projects, including the introduction of the pandas, following the retirement of former chief executive David Windmill.
He was also in charge of the operation of retail and visitor services at Highland Wildlife Park.
It is not known exactly what is being investigated, although the probe followed the arrival of an anonymous letter around a fortnight ago.
Three other members of senior management are now running the attraction.
A spokesman for the Edinburgh-based animal protection charity OneKind voiced their concern over the potential impact the suspension would have on the attraction. He said: “Our main concern is for the welfare of the animals. We are already concerned about the increased pressure on staff, and what this will mean for the animals. It’s difficult to say what will happen to the animals without knowing how the zoo is going to deal with the issue. It is important that the zoo comes out and says clearly what this means for the animals and how they are going to maintain the standard.”
Councillor for the Corstorphine and Murrayfield ward Paul Edie, who used to work at the zoo as a schoolboy, said he had not heard what the circumstances around the suspension were. “It’s a shame to see the zoo having a tough time. It’s a popular local attraction and I want it to grow and do well,” he said.
An inside source at the zoo said the latest development was “extremely bad news” for the facility.
The source said: “This really takes the biscuit. It is exactly what the zoo does not need right now. We’re trying to attract sponsorship to fund the pandas, yet one of the most senior members of staff is being investigated. This has blown us away. What’s going to happen next?”
An ex-employee has been reported as saying that workers at the zoo were divided over Mr Wilson. They said: “Gary Wilson is considered a bit of a character by some of the staff at the zoo. He’s like Marmite – folk either love him or hate him. However, he’s very commercially focused, so his methods sometimes clash with the charitable side of RZSS.”
Another source added: “Who knows whether there’s something in this? You have to consider it is possible that this is some sort of revenge in light of the recent redundancies.”
A spokesman for Lothian and Borders Police confirmed that the allegations were not being treated as a police matter.