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Stand up and be counted!

Tuesday 5th January 2016

Zoo keepers are put to the test at this time every year as they have to get their counting brains in gear in readiness for the annual inventory.

While most people are recovering from the New Year’s Eve festivities, the staff at Banham Zoo and Africa Alive! will be beginning to accurately count every animal within each collection.

This may seem like a relatively simple task as animals like tigers are quite easy to count but the zoo keepers along with the animal record keeper have also recorded information on the animals’ health, the many arrivals, departures, births and sadly some deaths that have happened throughout the year. This information is collated using ZIMS (Zoological Information Management System), a database used by zoos around the world to share information about animals and their environments that is constantly being updated in real time.

At the end of the year the keepers check that the number of individuals of each species on ZIMS is correct. This is indeed a simple task for the cat keepers but as there are over 50 Swainson’s lorikeets at Banham Zoo and more than 600 cockroaches at Africa Alive! the job of counting these animals accurately becomes more complex.

Maintaining accurate, up to date records is not only crucial to the annual inventory, but also to the conservation of several of the species kept at the zoo as, between the two collections, over 200 different species, 100 of which are part of managed breeding programmes are cared for. The coordinators and studbook keepers who are responsible for these programmes, zoo experts from all over the world, will contact the animal record keeper at this time of year for these inventories. They will then use this information to work out where best to send animals that have been bred in the zoos over the past 12 months and which animals should breed in the coming year.

Keepers at Africa Alive! will be excited to record the three new fossa that were born in July this year to mum – Tana. Fossa are often mistaken for members of the cat family but are in fact more closely related to the mongoose and the meerkat. This species has been classed as vulnerable in the wild so the addition of three fossa to the captive breeding programme is a great boost.

Not to be out done, keepers at Banham Zoo will be equally excited to record that the two Grevy’s zebra born also in July. These magnificent zebra are endangered in the wild and Banham Zoo has supported the Grevy’s Zebra Conservation Project for many years. This brings the total of this species up to five at Banham Zoo.

So as many people settle down to their turkey leftovers at New Year, spare a thought for the hard working keepers who will be checking that the numbers add up!

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