The Highland Wildlife Park was opened in 1972 and has been run by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland since 1986. Visitors experience Scottish wildlife past and present in the spectacular setting of the Scottish Highlands. and after a "remit" in 2007 endangered species from mountainous regions all over the globe (See Below). On show are a variety of animals found in present day Scotland, animals that were once present, hundreds, even thousands of years ago, and endangered mountain species from elsewhere.. Visitors drive around the Main Reserve in their cars and then move on to a walk-round area.
The enclosure home to a pack of Grey Wolf won the ZooLex award in 2003 for having a leading design for their wolf territory, which offers extensive areas for them to inhabit and views of the Cairngorms where wild wolves would have roamed until as recently as the 1700s.
The park is open every day of the year, weather permitting.
In 1980 the park was made famous by obtaining "Felicity the Puma", a Puma that was reputedly captured nearby by a farmer. The Puma lived out her days in the park and is now on show stuffed in the Inverness museum. In the past the park has also been the home to several examples of the famous "Kellas cat".
The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, owner and administrator of the Highland Wildlife Park, altered the theme of the park in 2007 from native species of the Highlands, to species from tundra and mountainous habitats around the world. This move is an attempt to bring the park closer to the working practices of the RZSS's main site, Edinburgh Zoo as well as to drastically increase visitor numbers which had been virtually static for some years.
Although the park was in need of serious investment for some years, many locals to the area as well as frequent visitors to the park believe that this move would distance the park from its hitherto unique attraction as a place to see native species in their natural habitat, and will eventually turn the park into another safari park filled with ever more exotic animals in an attempt to attract more of the area's visitors.
In defense to this view, the RZSS claimed that the new animals in the park's collection are for the most part extremely endangered, and their presence at the park will safeguard their future, as well as demonstrating the Highlands' place in the global ecosystem.
However, critics said that many of the animals which were lost in the first wave of alterations (Badgers, Red Foxes, Soay Sheep, Highland Cattle, Polecat) may not have been endangered in the Highlands, but were the kinds of animals that visitors associate with the Highlands and would be extremely lucky to have seen in person during their stay.
In 2008 Bactrian wapiti, chinese grey goral Mishmi takin and red panda, Himalayan tahr, Carpathian lynx, Afghan urial, European elk and kiang all arrived, some coming from Edinburgh Zoo 2008 also saw the arrival of an purpose built aviary for Himalayan snowcock. The park also had several Mishmi takin, kiang, markhor and urial births.
The future collection of animals at the park is set to include: Pallas Cat, Snow Leopard, Amur Leopard and Thorold's or White lipped Deer. The majority of these animals will be coming up from Edinburgh. The new Amur tiger enclosure has opened at the park, costing £400'000 it is now home to a pair of tigers, Sasha and Yuri a proven breeding pair from Edinburgh zoo.