Census count gets underway

It’s time to count heads at Dudley Zoological Gardens as clipboard and calculator-carrying keepers begin the annual animal census.

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Staff will be totting up every invertebrate, bird, mammal, reptile and amphibian across the 40-acre site as part of the licensing requirements of all UK zoos and wildlife parks, but with more than 1,500 (1,579) animals that’s easier said then done!

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The week long task is overseen by DZG’s Registrar and Research Co-ordinator, Dr David Beeston, who records the collected data into the Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS) – a worldwide comprehensive database of animal health and well-being.

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Dr Beeston, pictured above, said: “Keepers work with our animals daily and know how many of each species there are on a day-to-day basis, so this is just really a confirmation exercise for us to check our yearly inventory tallies with the results, before we submit them to the local authority.”

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But counting up the site’s one Asiatic black bear, two Sumatran tigers or three Asiatic lions poses less of a challenge than those keepers who have to keep check of 75 identical Humboldt penguins or 71 fast-flying Egyptian fruit and Seba’s short-tailed bats.

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Dr Beeston, added: “We have quite a few different things on the inventory this year because of the new Castle Creatures exhibit, which includes bats, black rats and leeches, so they will certainly make counting interesting.”

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Animals are identified through various methods including microchips, ear tags, body markings, flipper bands and foot rings.