28 Aug 2013

From the smallest snail to the tallest giraffe, our staff have been set the important task of counting every single animal in our care.

Keepers had their clipboards and pens at the ready as they made their way through more than 400 different species – including all of their creepy crawlies – as they carried out their annual stocktake.

Herpetology keeper Heather Prince said:

“Tallying up our huge Galapagos tortoises doesn’t provide us with too much of a headache but trying to count the hundreds of butterflies and moths or thousands of insects is a bit more of challenge.”

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

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

11,352 animals were recorded during last year’s count but since then the we’ve witnessed something of a baby boom.

Two Sumatran tiger cubs, two northern cheetah cubs, two Eastern black rhino calves, a baby greater one-horned rhino, an Asian elephant calf and a rare baby Rothschild giraffe make up just some of the new arrivals, which may increase the total number of mammals from the 801 in 2013.

The zoo’s records coordinator Liz Ball, responsible for compiling all of the data, said:

“It’s really nice to be able to add all of the newborns to this year’s count. A big reason we’re here is to breed some incredibly endangered species and we’ve done very, very well on that front in recent times. Sumatran tigers, for example, number fewer than 300 in the wild and so to have had two more healthy cubs is very special indeed.

“The data that we put together during our stocktake will be shared with zoos around the world. It means we can then start to work out things like who these cubs should be paired with in order to make the very best of the conservation-breeding programme trying to protect these stunning animals.”


Team manager of the aquarium Andrea Swatman dives in to count the yellow spotted Amazon river turtles.


Lead keeper Lucy Edwards notes down the number of meerkats at the zoo.


Keeper Matt Cook with a rhinoceros rat snake.


Lead keeper Ben Baker tallies up the Bell’s anglehead lizards. Chester is the only zoo in the UK the species has ever been bred at.


Herpetology keeper Heather Prince with one of over 100 Malaysian leaf katydids.


Keeper Mark Wylie tots up the ring-tailed lemurs.