THEY may be able to run, swim and fly but animals at Chester Zoo can’t hide from staff during the annual stocktake.
From the tiniest frog to the largest Asian elephant, keepers have been making their way through more than 500 species as they carry out headcounts of every single creature.
Records at the zoo are regularly updated to allow for any births, deaths and departures and every animal has their own ‘passport’ which details exactly who it is, where it was born and who its ancestors were.
It’s this process that ensures the zoo gets the best possible management of its breeding programmes.
But every January it’s all hands to the pump as keepers help to double-check the data with a final headcount – a process which all zoos must go through by law in order to comply with the Zoo Licensing Act 1981.
Ruth Smith, herpetology keeper at the zoo, said: “Our annual stock-take involves all of our keepers tallying up every animal in our collection.
“It’s a real team effort.
“But while totalling up the giant Galapagos tortoises doesn’t cause us too much trouble, trying to count the hundreds of butterflies or thousands of snails in our collection is a completely different story.”
With 8, 244 animals at the last count, the job is a challenging one to say the least.
And, with a host of new additions to the zoo last year, there are even more species to make note of this time around.
Registrar assistant Liz Ball said 2012 saw the biggest baby boom in Chester Zoo’s history.
“In just the last three months we’ve had two rare baby Sumatran orang-utans, an Asian elephant, two giant otter pups, a Rothschild giraffe and a baby black rhino born,” she said.
“And what makes all of these new arrivals really important is that not only are they all threatened species in the wild but some of them have been firsts for us here at Chester Zoo.
“We’ve also recently welcomed a rare baby okapi, which is potentially the only one to be born in any zoo in Europe this year.
“So that’s another great achievement for us and really good news for the future of the species.”