Edinburgh Zoo welcomes ‘cartoonist in residence’

HE WAS once a high-level banker, working under disgraced Royal Bank of Scotland chief executive Fred “the Shred” Goodwin and overseeing international funds worth £100 billion.

Cameron McPhails first cartoons for Edinburgh Zoo, marking his own arrival as cartoonist in residence and that of the latest batch of meerkat pups
Cameron McPhails first cartoons for Edinburgh Zoo, marking his own arrival as cartoonist in residence and that of the latest batch of meerkat pups

But now financier-turned- humourist Dr Cameron Mc-Phail is turning his hand to art after being appointed as “cartoonist in residence” at Edinburgh Zoo.

McPhail, who has 30 years’ experience in the financial services industry and worked as chief executive of wealth management at the troubled bank until 2002, is to take up a behind-the-scenes position at the zoo, where he will draw cartoons to help raise awareness of the work of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.

McPhail and his co-workers from the Kartoon Faktory – a company he runs in Jersey – will join a team of more than a dozen “residents” appointed by RZSS, including a sculptor, beekeeper, environmental scientist, storyteller, silversmith, wildlife artist, nature photographer, palaeontologist, adventurer/explorer and an organic chef.

Illustration: Cameron McPhail

Plans for his residency include the creation of cartoon books based on the animals at both the zoo and the Highland Wildlife Park in the Cairngorms National Park; speeded-up footage of illustrations being created at both parks and possibly even RZSS’s own cartoon strip.

Kathy Sorley, RZSS “thinker in residence” and manager of the RZSS residency programme, said: “The programme allows collaboration with a number of experts in their fields, enabling RZSS to engage with many different audiences about the conservation work we undertake at home in Scotland and elsewhere around the globe.”

She added: “Humour is a brilliant avenue to bring topical issues to people’s attention, and to pique their curiosity about conservation matters we care deeply about through clever use of wry and insightful cartoons, which Dr McPhail creates in abundance.

“We are delighted he and his illustration team at the Kartoon Faktory have agreed to become our RZSS cartoonists in residence.”

McPhail, who started his career at Scottish Enterprise before he joined the Royal Bank of Scotland, wrote his first book, a satire on the Scots psyche called The Scottish Nationality Test, in 2009. He has also published his first children’s book Magpies And Mischief through Black & White Publishing in Edinburgh.

He has previously been quoted as saying the actions of former RBS chief executive Fred Goodwin, who has been blamed for the downfall of the institution, were “the reason I quietly sloped towards the exit”. RBS was bailed out by the UK government in 2008 amid a global recession and following its acquisition of Dutch bank ABN Amro.

McPhail’s first work for the zoo is a series of two cartoons. The first celebrates the latest batch of meerkat pups at RZSS Edinburgh Zoo’s Meerkat ­Plaza, depicting a cartoonist drawing the new arrivals and an adult meercat saying to the other, “He’s expensive, but they deserve the best”.

Meanwhile, the second features McPhail and illustrator Oli Nightingale in a cage at the zoo watched by visitors, with the caption, “Kathy, this Cartoonists in Residence role is not quite what we had in mind”.

McPhail said: “This is a wonderful time to be associated with Edinburgh Zoo and Highland Wildlife Park, and given the wealth of subject material, we are bound to have a lot of fun during our residency.”

The zoo is awaiting news of whether giant panda Tian Tian is pregnant. It said in June that the panda had conceived, but that implantation, when the fertilised egg attaches to the uterus, had not yet taken place. However, officials suggested that if successful, a cub could be born next month.