Zoo Watch: Animals stand up and be counted for annual Whipsnade Zoo stock take
PUBLISHED: 17:18 07 January 2020 | UPDATED: 17:18 07 January 2020
The animals are coming in two by two as zookeepers undertake the mammoth task of counting more than 2,000 animals who live at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo.
Whipsnade is the UK's largest zoo and is home to around 2,500 animals. Zookeepers will count all creatures great and small from lemurs to giraffes, as well as fast-moving vampire crabs and Madagascan hissing cockroaches.
In 2019, the zoo saw the birth of two wolverine kits, a reticulated giraffe called Khari and the zoo's 15th greater one-horned rhino - all of whom will be added to the census.
Zookeepers will also need to tally up each individual from eight different species of deer and the 80 species of fish in the zoo's new aquarium, which opened last summer.
Keeper Thomas Maunders was tasked with counting the newly-arrived mangarahara cichlids (a species of fish from Northern Madagascar) in the aquarium, while Ben Matthews took stock of the four-strong rhino herd, including one-month-old calf Zhiwa.
The zoo's animal manager Matthew Webb said: "Today marks the start of the annual stock take, where we make sure every animal is recorded as part of our official zoo license requirements.
"We'll also share the information with other zoos around the world, as the numbers are used to plan the conservation breeding programmes for endangered species. It's a really important task and one that takes at least a week to complete.
"For some animals it's as easy as one, two, three, but for others it's a little more tricky: our aquarium keepers take still images of the tanks so they don't count the same fish twice, while our invertebrate team sometimes 'cheat' - counting tiny animals like our vampire crabs as one colony."
The information is shared with other zoos around the world via a database called ZIMS (Zoological Information Management System), where it is used to help manage the worldwide conservation breeding programmes for endangered animals.