Weighting game

A huge-scale operation is well underway at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, as keepers are coaxing thousands of animals, including bears, lemurs and rhinoceroses, to step onto the scales for the annual weigh-in.

As part of their regular check-ups, all creatures great and small are having their vital statistics recorded as a way of keeping track of the health and wellbeing of the 3,500 animals at the UK’s largest Zoo.

Greater one-horned rhinoceros Behan, one of the heaviest animals at the Zoo, stepped onto an industrial sized scale for keepers to record her weight, while the Zoo’s tiny baby Desertas wolf spiderlings, one of the world’s most endangered species of spider, required extra sensitive equipment to weigh them accurately. 

The fish in our brand new Aquarium are measured during the annual weigh-in at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

The Zoo’s brand-new Aquarium presented a fun new challenge for keepers, who donned their wetsuits and dived in to measure up some of the Aquarium’s 300 new scale-y inhabitants.

The animals’ weights and measurements are recorded in a database called Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS), which helps zookeepers around the world compare important information on thousands of endangered species. 

Zoological manager Matthew Webb said: “All of our animals at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo are weighed and measured regularly, but the annual weigh-in is an opportunity to review the information we’ve recorded, and ensure it is up-to-date and accurate.

A McCords Box turtle is weighed at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo's annual weigh in

“With so many animals with different personalities, the zookeepers have to come up with creative tactics to entice them onto the scales, from luring Northern rockhopper penguins onto scales in exchange for their favourite fishy snacks, to encouraging our European brown bears to stand up at their impressive full height next to a giant ruler for a veggie reward.”

As well as a key gauge of the animals’ well-being, keepers can use the regular weight checks and waist measurements to identify pregnant animals, many of which are endangered species that form part of the Zoo’s international conservation breeding programmes.

European brown bears Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo are measured in the annual weigh in

Visitors can encounter the huge range of animals, from mini to mammoth, for themselves this bank holiday weekend at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo. Book online to receive 10% discount on tickets

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