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Animal keepers count heads for annual stock take at West Midland Safari Park

Animal keepers at West Midland Safari Park have had a busy start to the year in completing the annual animal stock take.

Discovery Trail Keeper Katie Stokes and red panda Mei Lin
Discovery Trail Keeper Katie Stokes and red panda Mei Lin

Every year, each creature great and small must be counted, from the huge African elephants to the tiny, critically endangered golden mantella frogs.

The total number of animals changes each year and in 2021, the attraction welcomed some new animals, with the birth of two white rhino calves and 26 rainbow lorikeet chicks, as well as the arrival of a red panda.

Head of wildlife Angela Potter said: “This is the time of year that we carry out the annual count of all our animals, big and small.

Keepers at West Midland Safari Park take part in the annual animal stock take

"We have 121 species with over 1,000 individuals, so it’s a real team effort to ensure every animal is included.

"Most are counted as individuals such as our white rhino herd, which had the addition of two lovely boys, Jambo and Jumani, born in 2021, but some are counted in colonies such as our tiny leafcutter ants.

"It would take a very long time if you were to count every one of those individually.

The animals are counted daily and checked over, such as Hartley the pancake tortoise

“Of course, our keepers count our animals on a daily basis and give them a good look over to ensure they are all healthy and well, but this annual audit which takes place in January is something that each wildlife attraction must undertake as part of our zoo licence requirements.

“In 2021, we welcomed some new species to our collection and these included Mei Lin, our beautiful red panda, who joined us in August, and three smaller species - whitebelly reed frogs, crocodile lizards and Lau banded iguanas.

"We also said goodbye to some notable characters who left us to join collections in Scotland.

Some animals are easier to count, such as the crash of white rhinos, who are getting a new habitat for 2022

"These included Fennessy and Gerald, our two young male giraffes, and Grace, our young Grévy’s zebra, who all went to Edinburgh Zoo; and three Bactrian camels, Dierdre and Dippy, who are now at Highland Wildlife Park; and Doris who is at Blair Drummond Safari Park.“

The audit is part of zoo licensing requirements and once every head has been counted, the results are noted in a report which is sent to the local authority.

The safari park’s wildlife administrator then checks the results against the animal record system, to ensure the census matches.

A variety of animals call the park home, including mammals, reptiles, birds, amphibians, fish and invertebrates.

Some are easier to count than others, such as the pancake tortoises, compared to the quick, scurrying Madagascar hissing cockroaches.

The safari park has some exciting changes in store this year for some of their animals and guests, including new habitats for the white rhinos, giraffes and Sumatran tigers and the installation of new pathways, so that day guests can see these animals, as well as the African elephants, on foot.

The animal habitats will be upgraded alongside the introduction of eight new, luxury lodges offering spectacular views of the park's tower of charismatic giraffes and crash of white rhinos, due to open in April.

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