Chester Zoo has carried out its annual January animal count – which has revealed more animals than ever before now call the leading attraction home.
A whopping 21,314 animals from almost 500 different species, including some of the world’s most endangered, now reside at the zoo.
The number is the highest recorded since it opened in 1931. It breaks down to 1,268 mammals, 1,880 birds, 349 reptiles, 728 amphibians, 7,616 fish and 9,473 insects.
The figures emerged after zoo-keepers completed their annual task of tallying up each and every individual bird, mammal, reptile, amphibian, fish and invertebrate (although some of the very smallest inhabitants like the leaf cutter ants just are counted as one colony) under their care.
The compulsory count is required as part of the zoo’s operating licence and the data collected is used to help plan global breeding programmes.
Liz Ball, from the zoo’s records team, is responsible for compiling information on every animal at the zoo. She said: “The annual animal count at the zoo is always a massive challenge. But with a vast array of new arrivals and well over a thousand recent births and hatchings, this year’s count was nothing short of monumental.
"Thankfully we’ve now completed the task and the figures show we’ve had a record breaking year. For the first time the zoo is now home to over 21,000 individual animals – more than we’ve ever had before.
“Each and every one of these animals has its own ‘passport’, detailing important information such as who it is, where it was born, its gender and its family history. All of these key components are absolutely vital when it comes to carefully pairing up highly endangered animals and co-ordinating worldwide breeding programmes.”
Staff at the zoo have added a whole host of rare new arrivals to their count following a year of important breeding successes. Among the highlights are two critically endangered Eastern black rhino calves, seven endangered African painted dog pups - the first of their kind to be born at the zoo - and world first breedings of highly threatened Bermudian skinks and Catalonian newts.
Mike Jordan, collections director at the zoo, added: “With habitat loss, poaching, hunting, illegal trading, climate change and all manner of other factors affecting wildlife populations around the world, more and more animals are being added to the red list of endangered species.
“The work of Chester Zoo and other good zoos has never been more relevant and important as we fight – both here and in the field - to ensure a brighter future for so many threatened species. It’s vital that we continue to prevent extinction by ground-breaking science and conservation breeding here at the zoo in tandem with developing and supporting new conservation projects in the wild; tackling the issues at the source.”
Drawing almost 1.9million visitors every year, Chester Zoo is the UK’s most visited attraction outside of London and is rated as the best zoo in the UK and third best in the world according to users of travel website, TripAdvisor.