THE former boss of one of Britain’s largest utility firms has been named as the next president of the organisation that runs Edinburgh Zoo.
Ian Marchant, chief executive of SSE plc for more than ten years – will join the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) in May following its annual general meeting.
He is currently the chairman of John Wood Group and Maggie’s, the cancer care charity.
It has also emerged that RZSS chief executive Chris West, who came to the society from Adelaide Zoo four years ago, is set to return to Australia to be closer to his family.
Managing director Barbara Smith will act as interim chief executive until a suitable replacement is found.
Mr Marchant said he was delighted at news of his appointment.
He said: “I feel both honoured and privileged to be asked to act as president of RZSS.
“The issues of wildlife conservation and education have always been close to my heart and I will be incredibly fortunate to be able to play a part in such a great organisation.”
Zoo bosses said there had been “much to celebrate” during Mr West’s leadership, from the 100th anniversary celebrations in 2013 to the arrival of snow leopards and the UK’s only female polar bear at the RZSS Highland Wildlife Park last year.
Internationally, the 25th anniversary of Uganda’s Budongo Conservation Field Station and the giant armadillo conservation project were particular highlights, they added.
Mr West admitted that deciding to leave was difficult but said returning to Australia would be a “wonderful next chapter” for his family.
“I have enjoyed my time with RZSS enormously and it has been a pleasure to work with a tremendous group of people who are making a real difference to conservation and nature in Scotland and beyond,” he said.
Leaders at the zoo described Mr Marchant as a “long-standing member of RZSS and a frequent visitor to the zoo with his family”.
However, three years ago, he was at the centre of a row after SSE was fined £10.5 million for mis-selling.
Mr Marchant will replace John Spence, RZSS president for the past ten years, who announced he would stand down at the society’s 2015 AGM.
Jeremy Peat, RZSS chairman, said: “RZSS is exceptionally fortunate to welcome Ian. His broad-based experience will add huge value to the society and we all look forward to working with him.
“Chris has been CEO for nearly four years and has had a major positive impact on developments.”