Wildlife park unveils new discovery centre as part of £8m upgrade

The new attractions focus on education, conservation and entertainment with interactive games and exhibitions.

A multimillion-pound discovery centre has been unveiled at the Highland Wildlife Park at Kincraig.

Its owners – the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland – are confident the new attractions will thrill visitors and play a part in future conservation.

The park has been home to some of Scotland’s most loved creatures for more than 50 years.

It boasts over 60 species and has played a key role in restoring the rare wildcat population as part of extensive conservation work.

Three new environmentally-friendly attractions focus on education, conservation and entertainment – the realisation of a six-year ambition that was delayed by the pandemic.

The Wildlife Discovery Centre features games and exhibits

The venture aims to bring to life challenges facing wildlife locally and around the world.

Exhibits highlight how people can protect nature by their daily actions.

Interactive games and exhibits use digital technology to immerse people in stories of Scotland’s wildlife of the past and present.

The £8m project will feature a new visitor centre and restaurant in due course.

The society’s Beccy Angus said: “Every single space we’ve got is about looking beyond our fence lines. So, we want people to go away and think about what their green space is to them and what nature means to them.

“We want them to look beyond their fence lines at homes, or their windows, and go out and actually enjoy nature so they can how much they’re a part of it as well.”

She added: “It’s modern in its concepts and the way we’re talking about things but we’ve tried to be really sensitive and work with the landscape.”

An education hub offers a chance to learn about conservation and the work of the RZSS.

It provides community space and enables visitors to learn about conservation through the concept of STEM – science, technology, engineering and maths – to promote action.

A hill-top conservation den overlooks an area where wildcats are ultimately released into the wild.

The Highland Wildlife Park is home to over 200 animalsSTV News

The project was backed by funding from government agency NatureScot, the Lottery Heritage Fund and development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

Ben Supple, the wildlife conservation charity’s deputy chief executive, said: “With one in nine species at risk of extinction in Scotland and a million across the globe, it is more important than ever to engage and inspire people to create a world where nature is protected, valued and loved. 

“We are incredibly proud to open the doors to the Scotland’s Wildlife Discovery Centre project, which includes an interactive exhibition, a hilltop den where we will tell stories about how we work with partners to restore species, and new classrooms to support STEM learning and provide space to engage local communities with the natural world. 

“A fantastic example is how we will place visitors at the heart of conservation as they enjoy 360-degree views of the wildcat breeding centre at Highland Wildlife Park and into the Cairngorms, where wildcats are being released as part of the Saving Wildcats partnership led by RZSS.

“Access to nature can have tremendously powerful mental and physical health and wellbeing benefits and this project will help more people and communities experience the joys of being close to wildlife.

“We are very grateful for the funding we have received, which has enabled us to considerably increase the size of our education and community team. Our aim will be to reach out to various, diverse communities which experience barriers to accessing nature, including poverty, loneliness and disabilities.”

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