All creatures great and small: Annual animal census begins at London Zoo
The count is required as part of the license terms of British zoos
Thursday 03 January 2013
In a sea of flapping black and white flippers, Ricky is hard to miss: He's got spiky yellow feathers, a flamboyant character, and he's the only rockhopper among the dozens of penguins living in the London Zoo.
That's a big help for keepers who embarked today on their annual stock-taking of all the zoo's residents. It's no easy task, when there are more than 17,500 creatures to count. All animals have to be accounted for, including the tarantulas, locusts and snails.
The same scene was being repeated at zoos throughout Britain today — the census is nationwide. No stone is left unturned, lest there be a beetle below.
At the London Zoo, keepers hope the new year will bring some company to Ricky, who has been the zoo's lone rockhopper since 2011.
"Ricky's quite a unique character — he was rejected by his parents and was hand-reared. He's more interested in zoo keepers than in other penguins," said zoological director David Field. "It's time to get him some rockhopper partners."
In the meerkat enclosure, 11 of the small mammals were only too happy to be counted, climbing onto a keeper's clipboard seeking attention and food.
An all-female family of nine otters likewise rushed forward at the sight of their favored delicacies: Mice and crayfish. In the invertebrates section, a palm-sized red-kneed tarantula called Jill caused a stir among visitors when she was lifted out of her box for inspection.
"This is quite a docile one," said keeper Amy Callaghan, who held the spider out in her hand for photographers. "I was a little bit wary of them at first, but now I think they're brilliant."
The census is required as part of the license terms of British zoos, and the data is used for zoo management and international breeding programs for endangered animals. The final tally could take weeks.
Most animals in the zoo have microchips in their bodies, making counting a little less daunting. Fish and animals with camouflage properties — such as leaf insects — are trickier, and the tiniest ones such as ants are counted in colonies, not as individuals.
New additions to the zoo being counted for the first time included baby Ziggy, an endangered white-naped mangabey monkey, and Maxilla, a black-and-white colobus monkey.
The zoo also welcomed a pair of new Sumatran tigers — male Jae Jae from a zoo in Ohio and female Melati, from Perth, Australia. The endangered tigers were matched by an international breeding program to ensure a genetically diverse population of animals.
"We breed them in the zoo because they are running out of time in the wild," said Field, who's hopeful the tigers will soon produce cubs.
- 1 Man who held up 'hire me' sign at Waterloo station returns a year later with 'I'm hiring' sign
- 5 This crazy skiing video will leave you feeling queasy
Paris attacks: Do not call Charlie Hebdo killers 'terrorists', BBC says
Rowan Atkinson to sell £10 million McLaren 'supercar' he crashed into a tree and a lamppost
UK weather: Snow to fall in the coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Warriors in ancient Iraq suffered Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder more than 3,000 years ago, say researchers
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
George Galloway condemns 'racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag' Charlie Hebdo at freedom of speech rally
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
£22000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An established, family owned de...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An exciting position has risen for a Customer ...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...
£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A smart software company locate...