Zookeepers at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo have begun the mammoth task of counting every animal for their annual stocktake.
The UK's largest zoo is home to more than 2,500 animals and zookeepers had the challenge of counting every creature, from fast-moving vampire crabs and Madagascan hissing cockroaches, to the lemurs and giraffes.
Last year saw Whipsnade celebrate the birth of two wolverine kits, a reticulated giraffe called Khari and the Zoo’s 15th greater one-horned rhino - who will all be added to the census.
They’ll also need to tally up each individual from eight different species of deer and the 80 species of fish in the Zoo’s new Aquarium, which opened last summer.
Keeper Thomas Maunders was tasked with counting the newly-arrived mangarahara cichlids in the Aquarium while Ben Matthews took stock of the four-strong greater one-horned rhino herd – including one-month-old calf, Zhiwa.
ZSL Whipsnade Zoo’s animal manager, Matthew Webb said: “Today marks the start of the annual stocktake, where we make sure every animal is recorded as part of our official zoo license requirements.
“We’ll also share the information with other zoos around the world, as the numbers are used to plan the conservation breeding programmes for endangered species.
"It’s a really important task and one that takes at least a week to complete.
“For some animals it’s as easy as 1,2,3, but for others it’s a little more tricky: our aquarium keepers take still images of the tanks so they don’t count the same fish twice, while our invertebrate team sometimes ‘cheat’ – counting tiny animals like our vampire crabs as one colony.”
The information is shared with other zoos around the world via a database called ZIMS (Zoological Information Management System), where it’s used to help manage the worldwide conservation breeding programmes for endangered animals.
To book tickets for ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, visit: www.zsl.org.