So here’s my exciting news: Today was my first day as Storyteller in Residence for the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland. I was absolutely thrilled to be appointed to this role and I look forward to giving a day a week of my time to the RZSS and its more-than-human communities over the next twelve months.
I was not physically “in residence” today, but instead spent my time getting acquainted with the list of species that live at the RZSS’s two main sites: The Edinburgh Zoo and the Highland Wildlife Park. I also did a bit of planning work for an event I’ll be organising at the Edinburgh zoo as part of the Scottish International Storytelling Festival in October. More details on the latter in the following weeks.
According to the lists I was given, there are 156 different taxa of animals and over 7000 individuals living in the zoo, 34 taxa and 222 individuals at the wildlife park. I am learning more about the species represented, particularly what their wild ranges would have been, so that I can start collecting traditional tales about the animals visitors will encounter. I’ve only made it through the mammals and partway through the birds so far, but already I’m getting an appreciation of just how many cultures would have shared (and still do share) their territories with relatives of the zoo’s inhabitants.
Looking at the lists of animals and the places they come from reminds me that biodiversity and cultural diversity are closely interconnected and that cultural diversity is also endangered when animals become extinct. When people no longer encounter certain animals in their daily lives, will they also stop telling stories about them? And when people forget the stories their ancestors told about certain animals will they also forget to value those animals?