If only the spiders would stand still…

Published: 4 January 2017

If only the spiders would stand still… This time each year, zoo keepers take on the mammoth task of counting each and every animal in their collections. Staff at Living Coasts, on the English Riviera, have to tot up everything from large seals to tiny fish. At the last count Torquay’s coastal zoo had 534 individuals of 58 species. Exhibit manager Clare Rugg said: “The penguins are hard to count – there are lots of them and they keep moving!” Their rather larger sister charity, Paignton Zoo, is home to something like 2,500 animals of 307 species, including approximately 400 mammals, 1,000 birds and 1,100 lower vertebrates and invertebrates. Of course, some keepers have it easier than others - giraffes are easier to count than Indian social spiders or sunburst diving beetles, for example… Zoo experts keep detailed records of every animal birth, death, arrival and departure. The annual headcount is completed each January as a requirement of zoo licencing. Top zoos track the animals in their care using a software programme called ZIMS – the Zoological Information Management System. This brings together collection information, studbook data for individual species and veterinary records. The information collected goes to the USA to be combined with figures from other top collections.

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