Whipsnade Zoo starts its annual stock-take of 9,500-plus animals

  • Watch a report by ITV News Anglia's Callum Fairhurst

The UK’s largest zoo has embarked on its annual stock-take - aiming to count each of the 9,500-plus animals it looks after.

From hippos and rhinos to rare fish and insects, every creature in the care of Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire has to be accounted for - and in the coming days keepers will tot up totals of invertebrates, birds, fish, mammals, reptiles and amphibians.

The operations director for animals, Matthew Webb, said the annual stock-take was a key time of year for the zoo.

“We’ve got over 9,500 animals on site and we have to keep a real strict eye on how many we’ve got," he said. "We have to make sure all that information is being inputted. We count them regularly, but we do an annual stock take every year."

But the count presents challenges for keepers - for example, at the aquarium, where there are thousands of fish, staff take a still picture so they do not double count any animal. 

Keepers in wetsuits even get into the tank to count the fish Credit: ITV Anglia

And it is not just Whipsnade participating - zoos around the world are taking part.

Bosses say it is important to get the counts right as some species at Whipsnade are extinct in the wild, and each annual audit creates data that is shared globally. 

This data is then used to help manage the worldwide conservation breeding programmes for endangered animals.

Among the new arrivals at Whipsnade in the past year are Titch, a two-month old chameleon, and Nandi, an endangered southern white rhino.

Titch the chameleon sat on the clipboard as he was being counted. Credit: ITV Anglia

The kaleidoscopic colour-changer was so small when he was born that staff were initially unsure whether he was male or female.

At the other end of the scale - and rather easier for the keepers to spot - was Nandi, who arrived at the zoo in the summer.

The rhino calf, whose name means "sweet one" in Zulu, was born to parents Tuli and Sizzle in August after a 16-month pregnancy.

Nandi the rhino was born in 2021. Credit: ITV Anglia