Dedicated zookeepers at ZSL London Zoo have dug out their clipboards and calculators – as they began counting the animals at the Zoo’s annual stocktake this week.
Tallying up every mammal, bird, reptile and invertebrate at the Zoo, zookeepers at the world-famous site are continuing their essential work, despite the national lockdown forcing the zoo to close once again.
Counting everything from a colony of inquisitive Humboldt penguins to Critically Endangered Sumatran tigers, the stocktake is a legal requirement as part of the Zoo License – and the impressive tally of threatened species it calls home provide a stark reminder of the crucial conservation work the Zoo is once again calling on the public to support.
ZSL London Zoo’s Chief Operating Officer, Kathryn England, said: “After an extraordinary year, the whole country is currently taking stock and looking forward to better times - here at ZSL London Zoo we’re doing the same.
“There’s no doubt that 2020 was the most challenging year in our almost 200-year history - national lockdowns saw us closed for 18 weeks, cutting off millions of pounds of vital charitable income from lost ticket sales - but kicking off this new year with the annual stocktake is a chance to reflect on some of our achievements in the face of these challenges.”
2020 saw the arrival of many new animals at ZSL London Zoo: two excitable otter pups were born during lockdown to first-time parents Pip and Matilda, before Oni the okapi gave birth to a female calf, Ede, in September - part of the vital breeding programme for the Endangered species. Sumatran tigress Gaysha arrived in mid-December to be reunited with her former mate, Asim, in Tiger Territory – a Critically Endangered species, the important new addition was recorded for the first time as part of the 2021 tally.
Kathryn added: “With our zoo now closed once again and our vital source of income cut off, we’re facing a difficult start to 2021 - ZSL needs the public’s support more than ever.”
ZSL London Zoo’s Animal Manager, Angela Ryan, said: “ZSL London Zoo is home to more than 400 species, from Endangered Asiatic lions to Critically Endangered Chinese giant salamanders - we’re working not only here in the Zoo to increase their numbers and learn more about these amazing animals, but on conservation projects around the world too.
“We have to submit an updated number of animals each year as part of our zoo license, but we also share them with the international zoo community to inform our global conservation breeding work.”
For some zookeepers the task is relatively easy, but imaginative tactics are used by others to ensure every resident at the Zoo is accounted for - the B.U.G.S team cheat and count ant colonies as one, instead of tracking hundreds of individual ants.
The annual audit takes keepers almost a week to complete and the information is shared with other zoos around the world via a database called ZIMS, where it’s used to help manage worldwide conservation breeding programmes for endangered species.
Reliant on income from ticket sales to care for the animals and fund their global conservation efforts, enforced closures have put the charity zoos under huge financial pressure. Vets and zookeepers will continue to provide the highest level of care for their animals, working throughout the lockdown. ZSL, the international conservation charity behind the Zoos, is calling on the public to help ensure they remain open by donating to ZSL.