The New Year has got off to a busy start for keepers at Marwell Zoo, near Southampton, as they complete an audit of every species in the park.
The mammoth task is led by zoo registrar Debbie Pearson, who is busy tallying up dozens of animals including every resident mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian, fish and invertebrate.
There were around 2,000 animals across 143 species recorded in 2017. However, those figures will increase due to significant breeding successes of species including Grevy’s zebra and Hartmann’s mountain zebra as well as the arrival of new animals for the opening of the zoo’s Tropical House – its largest and most ambitious project to date.
With impressive eco-credentials, the unique exhibit is designed to let visitors get closer to animals, including a Linné’s two-toed sloth, Javan chevrotains, pygmy marmosets, free-flying birds and butterflies, fish and a crocodile monitor lizard.
Every zoo must undertake the audit showing any changes in animal numbers and produce a report as part of its licence. Marwell works with a number of endangered species and the annual inventory is designed to ensure the best possible management of worldwide conservation breeding programmes.
Tiny creatures such as leaf-cutter ants are recorded in colonies, but all others are recorded individually. The trickiest to count includes the Partula snails, tiny tree snails driven to extinction in their native French Polynesia, which are part of an international collaborative breeding programme and must be counted every week by keepers.
Debbie Pearson, Marwell Zoo’s animal registrar, said: “Every year we complete the audit in accordance with zoo legislation to ensure the numbers we have on record tally with the animals we have on the ground before sending the final figures to our local authority. I think this year we’ll have around 2,000-2,500 animals across 152 different species. The opening of the Tropical House certainly kept me on my toes with a lot of new animals coming in, including large groups of birds and fish!”
Although the audit is undertaken once a year, Marwell’s zookeepers continually count the zoo’s animals, the record of which will be published at the end of January.