Thousands of animals stood up to be counted today (Thursday 7 January 2021) at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo as zookeepers kicked off the biggest task of the year behind closed doors – the first lockdown annual stocktake.
While the rest of the country is in lockdown, Whipsnade’s dedicated keepers continue to care for the animals at the UK’s largest zoo and this week began to take stock of each and every invertebrate, bird, fish, mammal, reptile and amphibian – a compulsory task required as part of the Zoo’s license.
Home to almost 4,000 animals and 280 species, ZSL Whipsnade Zoo saw many new arrivals in 2020 – boosting the numbers of threatened species, including some which are Extinct in the Wild. Despite being closed for a total of 18 weeks in 2020, the zoo’s vital conservation work continued behind closed doors.
Nilo, an endangered red panda cub was born to mum Tashi, seven Chinese water deer increased the numbers of the herd at the Zoo, and 14 Pere David deer, a species which is extinct-in-the-wild, were born in the summer.
Chief Operating Officer Owen Craft said: “Despite everything that 2020 threw at us and the huge challenges we continue to face, it’s so encouraging to take stock and highlight the positives in the last year.
“Our dedicated animal carers – zookeepers, vets, service teams – ensured our vital conservation work continued despite repeated closures and the financial pressures that created for us. As we now face another prolonged period of closure, we’re asking for support once again – any donation makes a huge difference.”
As part of the international conservation breeding programme, two new female Southern white rhinos – Jaseera and Fahari - were moved to the Zoo in Autumn and its hoped that their introduction to Whipsnade’s male Sizzle will encourage a further increase in the population’s numbers.
ZSL Animal Manager, Matthew Webb said; “As well as being a legal requirement for our zoo license, the stocktake gives us a chance to look back on the remarkable results of the past year. We’re so proud to have played a part in many conservation breeding programmes and to have helped increase numbers of threatened species, and we’ve been able to add some wonderful animals to the tally.
“The last year presented us all with so many challenges. Here at Whipsnade we had to get used to new ways of working and saw some of our plans altered or paused – we were not expecting to be counting the sea lions again this year but we’re looking forward and determined to make 2021 another success for conservation.”
A requirement of ZSL Whipsnade Zoo’s license, 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 the worldwide conservation breeding programmes for endangered animals.
Reliant on income from ticket sales to care for the animals and fund their global conservation efforts, repeated enforced closures have put the charity zoo under huge financial pressure. Vets and zookeepers continue to provide the highest level of care for the animals, working throughout the lockdowns. ZSL, the international conservation charity behind the Zoos, is calling on the public to help ensure they remain open by donating to ZSL.