How many tigers does it take to make a zoo?
Not a Christmas cracker joke but a necessary task at Chester Zoo every January as staff are faced with the mammoth challenge of carrying out an annual stock take.
Keepers at the Upton attraction are faced with the formidable task of noting every individual mammal, reptile, amphibian, fish, bird and invertebrate in their care.
The compulsory count, which covers species ranging from the tiniest frog to the largest elephant, is a legal requirement and part of the zoo’s license. The data collected is also used to help plan international breeding programmes for endangered species.
This year staff have their work cut out following a hugely successful 2015. A host of new-borns including Sumatran tiger triplets, two Rothschild’s giraffes and a rare okapi, plus new species like Sunda gharial crocodiles arriving for the opening of the zoo’s new Islands development – the biggest expansion in the history of UK zoos – mean there are more additions than ever before to add to the records.
The zoo’s records coordinator, Liz Ball, responsible for compiling the information from the count, said: “At this time of year it’s all hands to the pump as our keepers carry out a full head count of every animal at the zoo – something we must do in accordance with our zoo licence.
“The data we gather during the census is then logged into an electronic records system where every animal has its own ‘passport’ telling us important things like who it is, where it was born and details of its ancestry. This information is shared with zoos around the world and is a vital tool in the management of international conservation breeding programmes for endangered species.
“There’s little doubt that the challenge for the teams doing the counting this year is bigger than ever before. Not only have we had a huge number of breeding successes, we’ve also seen lots and lots of new species come in to take up residence in our new Islands development, which opened last July. This includes around 10,000 new fish!
“It does mean a lot of extra work for all of the staff but it’s a really exciting time and it’ll be great to see the stats at the end of the stock take, once all of our fabulous new arrivals have been officially accounted for.”
Herpetology keeper Pip Carter-Jones added: “Totting up our huge new Sunda gharial crocodiles is not much of a challenge but attempting to make a note of the dozens of buffalo leeches and thousands of fish is a rather mighty task!”