Edinburgh Zoo puts on conservation focused lantern display

Mythical creature and endangered animal lanterns on display at Edinburgh Zoo. Image caption: Gemma Stroyan

By Gemma Stroyan

The Giant Lanterns of China Festival at the Edinburgh Zoo carries an important message beyond it’s opening week.

The ‘Myths and Legends’ display proves to be “more than just pretty lights” with conservation work at the heart of its’ storytelling.

The beautiful display is educationally proactive, informing of the threats to endangered species and providing multiple options for recycling your waste as you travel around.

Spectator Linzi, 29 said: “It’s more than just pretty lights. I liked how as you walked around it was all about myths and legends but there were tie-ins to reality, and the information boards told you about the modern issues facing conservation and each creature on display. I definitely felt I learnt something as well as it being impressive to look at.”

As you travel the mile-long route through the display you find information detailing the threats facing each particular creature, reading: ‘One horned rhino: with horns worth thousands on the black market, Rhinos are in trouble. Our WildGenes scientists are working to protect them and many other creatures from this illegal wildlife trade.’

The World of Bear display reads: “Three Bears. Three unique habitats. One world under threat.

“With the ice melted, a polar bear plunges into freezing Arctic water. In Southeast Asia, a sun bear can’t understand where the rainforest has gone. Wandering on a Chinese mountain, a giant panda is getting hungry, but the bamboo it seeks has disappeared.”

Isaac, one of the events staff said: “It’s been quieter this weekend because of weather, the rugby and payday not being here yet, but I hope it does well. We expect it to do well because it carries an important message.

“It’s lovely to see the kids enjoying it because they are the future generation who can hopefully soak up the relevant lessons on conservation. Yes, the dragons and unicorns are mythical and look great but the supporting information of the other endangered species spreads the message that some of our best loved animals face very real threats today.”

Barbara Smith, Chief Executive at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo said: “Over 50 nights Edinburgh Zoo will be transformed into a winter wonderland of myths and legends. Each installation tells a story from Scottish legends and Chinese mythology as well as the crucial conservation projects we undertake with our partners to help preserve the world’s most vulnerable species. The event is a chance for us to illuminate the critical conservation work of RZSS to protect endangered animals.”

The end of the tour leaves its’ audience thinking of the permanent impact of these concerns. The lasting message, as they pass by the woolly mammoth and the dodo is “Extinction is natural. What isn’t natural is the speed extinctions are now taking place. Human activities drove these animals to extinction with the familiar threats of hunting, habitat loss and invasive species all playing a part.”

This leaves the audience with an alarmed sense of awareness and responsibility, that in order to stop existing animals becoming ‘myths and legends’, we must take action.

The event is running until February 2019.