A huge-scale operation is underway at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, as keepers coax thousands of animals, including aardvarks, spiders and rhinoceroses, to step onto the scales for the Zoo’s 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 10,000 animals at the UK’s largest Zoo.
Beluki, a 26-year-old, female, greater one-horned rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis) stepped onto an industrial sized weight scale, while Whipsnade Zoo’s smallest inhabitants, such as its butterflies, or critically endangered desertas wolf spiders (Hogna ingens), require extra sensitive equipment to weigh them accurately.
Newcomer aardvarks Nacho and Terry took part in the annual weigh-in for the first time since their arrival at the conservation Zoo. Other first-timers to the weigh-in include three-month-old, endangered, Northern rockhopper penguin (Eudyptes moseleyi), Dobby, who hatched in May, and was hand-fed by dedicated keepers when her parents proved unable to look after her.
Endangered Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) Ming Jung was coaxed across his mammoth scales - placed on the pathway between his bedroom and outdoor paddock - using his favourite healthy snacks. The 14-year-old bull elephant clocks in at a healthy 4150kg.
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.
Head of zoological operations, 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.
“With so many animals with different personalities, the zookeepers have to come up with creative tactics to entice them onto the scales, from luring a 4150kg, endangered, Asian elephant like Ming Jung onto the scales in exchange for his favourite veggies, to encouraging a ring-tailed lemur to bounce onto the scales for a juicy, sweet pepper.”
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.
Best known for its own colossal beasts that graze enormous enclosures, like the Zoo’s two herds of prehistoric looking rhinoceroses, ZSL Whipsnade Zoo is home to over 10,000 amazing animals, including a herd of Asian elephants. Proudly helping to protect threatened species, Whipsnade has contributed to reintroductions of extinct-in-the-wild species, such as the Przewalski’s horse, and through their entry fee, every visitor is contributing to ZSL’s worldwide conservation work for animals and their habitats.
Families can see who is best at stalking like a tiger, solving puzzles like a chimp, digging like a meerkat, remembering like an elephant and taking on the giant inflatable for the Ultimate Showdown, at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo’s The Ultimate Animal Challenge, which runs until Sunday 4 September. For a champion family day out over the bank holiday weekend, book your family’s visit now.