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The London Zoo Is Making its Annual Headcount This Week

Ensuring every animal is present and accounted for

smithsonian.com

Every January, zookeepers at the London Zoo take stock of the animals in their care, be they penguin, llama or even fish. Now, throughout the rest of the week, zookeepers will work through every cage and habitat at the zoo in their annual the census.

The annual stocktake certainly provides plenty of fodder for cute animal lovers, but it can sometimes be a challenge to make sure they’re getting the right count. People might be persuaded to spend a few minutes filling out a census form every few years. But it can be hard to get animals like meerkats or moon jellyfish to sit still long enough for their keepers to get an accurate count, Mark Habben, the zoological manager at the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), says in a video.

“[The moon jellyfish] are in quite a large tank and there’s so many of them in there, the easiest way to do it is to take a photograph of the tank and count them as individual animals,” Habben says.

With more than 750 different animal species to survey, its no wonder that the zookeepers need to take their time. But the annual stocktake not only lets them know how many mouths they need to feed; the information the zookeepers gather also helps manage breeding programs around the world via the International Species Information System, David Levene reports for The Guardian.

"It's really important that we do the stocktake, it gives us an opportunity to evaluate what successes we've had throughout the year, particularly in breeding critically endangered species, like the Western lowland gorilla," Habben tells Reuters.

Along with a newborn baby gorilla, who was born in late November, the zoo also logged a few other new charges, including a two-toed sloth born in July, a new litter of 11 African hunting dogs and the world’s first zoo-bred Lake Oku clawed frogs, the ZSL reported.

The London Zoo isn’t the only British zoo checking in on all its animals this week. While taking stock of the zoo’s animals is important for conservationists, British law requires all zoos to take an annual census in order to keep their license, the BBC reports.

To check out some of the zookeepers-turned-census-takers in action, check out the slideshow below.

Pink-backed Pelicans are counted during Zoological Society of London (ZSL) London Zoo's annual stocktake of animals. (Guy Corbishley/Demotix/Corbis)
Keeper Jessica Jones with Lamas and Alpacas during the annual animal stocktake at ZSL London Zoo, UK. (Guy Corbishley/Demotix/Corbis)
Keeper Janet Abreu feeds Humboldt penguins during the annual stocktake press preview at ZSL London Zoo in Regents Park, London. (Guy Corbishley/Demotix/Corbis)
The penguin count: 34 male and 37 female Humboldt Penguins. (Malcolm Park/Demotix/Corbis)
Luke Harding with a Jackson's chameleon during the annual animal stocktake at ZSL London Zoo, UK. (Guy Corbishley/Demotix/Corbis)
Keeper Veronica Heldt with Meerkats during the annual animal stocktake at ZSL London Zoo, UK. (Guy Corbishley/Demotix/Corbis)
About Danny Lewis

Danny Lewis is a multimedia journalist working in print, radio, and illustration. He focuses on stories with a health/science bent and has reported some of his favorite pieces from the prow of a canoe. Danny is based in Brooklyn, NY.

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