Sustainable Scotland: Nature needs help more than ever but we must act now, according to Royal Zoological Society of Scotland chief executive David Field

We have all experienced the recent record-breaking temperatures in Britain and watch wildfires sweep across Europe; it is clearer than ever that our natural environment is in crisis.

The evidence is overwhelming that human activities, from deforestation and pollution to hunting and poaching, are destroying our own life-support machine. One million species are on the brink of extinction and almost half of our ecosystems are in decline.

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Nature needs us all more than ever – and now is the time to act. Together.

Working in Scotland and around the world, our wildlife conservation charity aims to bring an inspired and empowered global community together to make this possible – and everyone has a role to play.

RZSS expertise in species recovery is vital and we have pledged to reverse the decline of at least 50 species by 2030, from pine hoverflies and wildcats in the Cairngorms National Park to chimpanzees in Uganda, giant anteaters in Brazil and many more.

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Giant panda Tian Tian is one of the most famous residents at Edinburgh Zoo. The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, which owns zoo and the Highland Wildlife Park, has released a pledging strategy to: reverse the decline of at least 50 species over the next eight years; create deeper connections with nature for more than a million people; and enable more than 100 communities to better protect nature

Protection of habitats and mitigating threats in the environment is an essential part of successful species recovery. We must use not only our own conservation expertise but also that of national and international partners, and indeed everyone who holds nature dear.

Edinburgh Zoo and Highland Wildlife Park are gateways to the natural world where many people choose to spend quality time with their loved ones and have incredible experiences connecting with wildlife and each other.

We are creating diverse and unique opportunities for more people to experience nature in a way that has personal resonance and meaning, which is why RZSS has pledged to create deeper connections with nature for more than a million people by 2030.

After the challenges of the last few years, we have all gained a greater appreciation for real life events and encounters. There is just something missing when you are only able to look at the world through a screen, and truly amazing to see someone meeting a giraffe for the first time, getting up close to a giant panda or even spotting a well-camouflaged leaf-tailed gecko after a determined search.

The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland is spearheading a national effort to save the iconic Scottish wildcat from extinction though a pioneering conservation breeding scheme at the Highland Wildlife Park that will release healthy animals back into the wild in the Cairngorms

The unique resources of our zoos, and our ability to build stronger connections between animals and people, can drive improved individual well-being and strengthen communities. There are proven links to greater well-being through increased access to nature, but sadly not everyone can access nature equally.

As part of our pledge to enable more than 100 communities to better protect nature by 2030, we will identify and minimize any barriers to visiting our zoos, engage with online audiences and provide access to outreach activities.

Making nature more accessible is fundamental, because people protect and value what they love and understand.

David Field is chief executive of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland

We are working with key partners to develop targeted programs that address key challenges in our local communities – for example loneliness – and foster direct links with social and community groups like Age Scotland and Edinburgh Children’s Hospital.

Ultimately, stronger communities have a greater capacity to care for wildlife, and through our zoos and our global reach we can help people realize the mental and physical health and wellbeing benefits of being close to nature.

There is also much we can do as guardians of the native biodiversity on our doorstep. You would be amazed at the range of native wildlife thriving at both Edinburgh Zoo and Highland Wildlife Park.

The reality is that the world’s biodiversity is vanishing fast, but by working together, inspiring and empowering communities, we can all make a difference.

David Field is chief executive of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland

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