Keepers begin counting thousands of animals for annual stocktake

Asian elephant with keepers

Thousands of animals stood up to be counted at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo as zookeepers kicked off one of their biggest tasks of the year – the 2017 annual stocktake.

Home to more than 3,000 animals, including more than 200 different species, keepers at the UK’s largest zoo began to make a headcount of each and every invertebrate, bird, fish, mammal, reptile and amphibian.

In 2016, ZSL Whipsnade Zoo welcomed many new arrivals including Elizabeth, a baby Asian elephant and a female giraffe calf named Nuru. A clutch of West African dwarf crocodiles also hatched, while a female gaur – the world’s largest cow – and a red panda cub arrived too. Each newborn will be added to this year’s census.

Every resident at the UK’s largest zoo must be accounted for; presenting a mammoth challenge for the keepers and one that will take approximately a week to complete.

Invertebrate keeper Thomas Maunders was tasked with counting each of the several hundred butterflies and moths in the Zoo’s tropical Butterfly House, while Shane Belson took stock of the nine-strong Asian elephant herd – including seven-month-old Elizabeth – ahead of their move into a brand-new Centre for Elephant Care in April.

The compulsory count is required as part of ZSL Whipsnade Zoo’s license and all of the information is logged into a worldwide zoological database called Species360, which is used to manage the international breeding programmes for endangered animals.   

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