Critter count: London Zoo begins annual animal census

AP News
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Posted: Jan 05, 2015 11:19 AM
Critter count: London Zoo begins annual animal census

LONDON (AP) — Clipboard-carrying zookeepers coaxed, corralled and counted scores of creatures Monday, as London Zoo began an annual census of its 17,000 residents.

The zoo is home to more than 750 species, from red-kneed spiders to Sumatran tigers, and all must be accounted for. The yearly stock-taking is required under the license terms for all British zoos.

New arrivals this year include 10 young Humboldt penguins, three tiger cubs and six baby Philippine crocodiles — the first of the reptiles ever bred in Britain.

The count is expected to take about a week. Tiny creatures such as ants and locusts are counted in colonies, but all others are recorded individually.

"You need a quick pair of eyes," said zookeeper Amy Heath as she counted a group of skittering squirrel monkeys. "Usually an extra pair of eyes helps, but I've been counting them for quite a few years, so I'm quite good at counting them."

Data from the count, and others around the country, will be entered into an international computer database of animal collections and used to plan zoo management and breeding programs for endangered species.