03 January 2013

Keepers were making their way through more than 500 different species today as they carried out their annual stock-take.

Records at the zoo are regularly updated to allow for any births, deaths and departures – with every animal having a ‘passport’ detailing exactly who it is, where it was born and who its ancestors were – ensuring the best possible management of all the vital breeding programmes.

But, at the end of the year, it’s all hands to the pump as keepers help double check the data with a final head-count – a process which zoos must go through by law in order to comply with the Zoo Licensing Act 1981.

Ruth Smith, a 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.”

Indeed the zoo’s large population – there were 8,244 animals at the last count – makes the job quite the challenge.

And with a host of new additions to add to the tally, there are even more species to make note of this time around.

Liz Ball, Registrar’s Assistant, said:

“This year we’ve had the biggest baby boom in our history. In just the last three months we’ve had two rare baby Sumatran orangutans, an Asian elephant, two giant otter pups, a Rothschild giraffe and a baby black rhino born. 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.”