Zoo Watch: More than 3,500 animals step up for annual weigh-in

Whipsnade Zoo annual weigh-in - a giant spiny stick insect sits on a set of scales.

Whipsnade Zoo annual weigh-in - a giant spiny stick insect sits on a set of scales. - Credit: Archant

Zookeepers whipped out their scales, tape measures and clipboards as they coaxed thousands of animals to step onto the scales for ZSL Whipsnade Zoo’s annual weigh-in.

Whipsnade Zoo annual weigh-in - a ring-tailed lemur checks in.

Whipsnade Zoo annual weigh-in - a ring-tailed lemur checks in. - Credit: Archant

As part of their regular check-ups, more than 3,500 animals at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo were enticed onto specialist scales of varying sizes and styles in order for keepers to log their vital statistics.

Whipsnade Zoo annual weigh-in - a ring-tailed lemur on a set of scales.

Whipsnade Zoo annual weigh-in - a ring-tailed lemur on a set of scales. - Credit: Archant

From a military macaw and two giant donkeys to leaping lemurs and tiny tortoises, keepers needed to come up with innovative techniques to ensure animals’ weights could be recorded.

Whipsnade Zoo annual weigh-in - an Egyptian tortoise is weighed.

Whipsnade Zoo annual weigh-in - an Egyptian tortoise is weighed. - Credit: Archant

While Tizer and Tarka, a pair of giant Poitou donkeys, one of the world’s largest donkey breeds, trotted onto a weigh board with only a word of encouragement from their keeper, the lure of peas and sweetcorn was used to persuade the energetic ring-tailed lemurs onto the scales.

Whipsnade Zoo annual weigh-in -keeper Clare White logs the lemur's weight.

Whipsnade Zoo annual weigh-in -keeper Clare White logs the lemur's weight. - Credit: Archant

Logging the statistics of the zoo’s residents is vital to ensure the health and well-being of each animal can be closely monitored by keepers throughout the year.

Whipsnade Zoo annual weigh-in - keeper Josh Tall checks the weight of military macaw Bolivia.

Whipsnade Zoo annual weigh-in - keeper Josh Tall checks the weight of military macaw Bolivia. - Credit: Archant


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The animals’ measurements are recorded into the Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS), and then shared with zoos around the world and used to compare information on thousands of endangered species.

Whipsnade Zoo annual weigh-in - keepers Ben Cherry and Molly Ruder weigh miniature donkey Trevor.

Whipsnade Zoo annual weigh-in - keepers Ben Cherry and Molly Ruder weigh miniature donkey Trevor. - Credit: Archant

Whipsnade zoological manager Matthew Webb said: “It is hugely important that we have the weight and measurement records for each and every animal at the zoo – whether it’s a three-and-a-half tonne elephant or a tiny stick insect.

Whipsnade Zoo annual weigh-in - keeper Josh Tall checks the weight of military macaw Bolivia.

Whipsnade Zoo annual weigh-in - keeper Josh Tall checks the weight of military macaw Bolivia. - Credit: Archant

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“Regular weight checks are used to gauge an animal’s general well-being but physical measurements can also help identify pregnancies, and this is especially important considering many of the zoo’s animals are endangered and part of international conservation breeding programmes.”

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