The animals came in two-by-two, or three, or 14,200.
It’s that time of year again, when the keepers at Bristol Zoo and Wild Place Project undertake one of the busiest and most important tasks of the year - counting all the animals.
The annual animal ‘census’ is done at the start of each year and includes stocktaking around 500 species; from tiny insects, fish and birds, to seals, gorillas and monkeys.
There will be no surprises for the keeper counting the Zoo’s seven gorillas or Wild Place Project’s three cheetahs, but the task becomes considerably harder for keepers who have to count the troop of swinging squirrel monkeys, the mischievous mob of meerkats, or the flighty fish, which are always on the move.
The Year In Numbers
In 2016, Bristol Zoological Society (which owns Wild Place Project and Bristol Zoo Gardens):
- Saw over 2,300 births in 2016
- Raised over £250,000 to help build a giraffe house at Wild Place Project and fund a giraffe conservation project in the wild.
- Welcomed over 650,000 guests through the Bristol Zoo and Wild Place Project gates
- Taught over 40,000 pupils
- Raised funds to rescue, rehabilitate and reintroduce over 900 penguins in South Africa
Jonny Rudd, curator of the aquarium at Bristol Zoo, has the job of counting all of the aquatic life in his care. The trickiest include the Zoo’s five species of Goodeids, a family of fish from Mexico and parts of the United States, many of which are now threatened or extinct according to the IUCN
Jonny said: “We have nearly 800 Goodeids in Bristol Zoo’s aquarium. Tracking them as they move in their tanks is a real challenge, making the animal census a big job.”
The mammal team has had some significant breeding successes this past year particularly with the birth of Afia, the western lowland gorilla, who was born by a rare emergency C-section in February.
The Zoo has also welcomed a baby pygmy hippo, who the public helped to name Hugo. Pygmy hippos have been assessed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and it is thought less than 2,000 of these animals survive in the wild.
Wild Place Project has seen the arrival of two newborn female okapi, named Ruby and Kimosi. Like pygmy hippos, okapi are also listed as Endangered and the new arrivals are a great achievement for Wild Place Project.
There are just 15 okapi in the UK, including Ruby and Kimosi, so their births are a huge boost to the breeding programme.
John Partridge, Senior Curator of Animals at Bristol Zoo Gardens said: “The last twelve months have been very successful in terms of animal births at the Zoo, so the annual count is a big job again this year. However, it is an important task because it acts as an audit to check that our computer records are accurate. Our collection records are far more than a simple count – we have precise information on individual animals and groups, which we share with colleagues around the world to help care for our number one priority – the animals.”
The Zoo runs or supports 12 conservation programmes in the UK and around the world, to safeguard the future of species such as western lowland gorillas, Kordofan giraffes and Livingstone’s fruit bats. Therefore the census is an important way of recording changes in populations to monitor and manage animal collections.
The data from the census will be submitted to the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums (BIAZA), the national professional body offering advice and guidance on all aspects of zoo management.