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Photo gallery: It’s a numbers game at Banham Zoo and Africa Alive

From counting thousands of cockroaches and hundreds of millipedes to recording two baby tamarins, 40 flamingos and a pride of lions – it is not a job for the every day bean counter.

But at two Norfolk and Suffolk zoos animal experts have become stock-list takers as they catalogue how many creatures they have in their enclosures and tanks.

Banham Zoo, near Diss, and Africa Alive at Kessingland, near Lowestoft, are taking part in a stock take, which means trying to count thousands of insects, work out how many birds are in aviaries and see how many curious meerkats there are in their enclosure.

Both zoos have embarked on their annual survey of the 62 different species they keep at the sites, which are owned by Martin Goymour.

From giraffes, lions, camels, rhinos and Siberian tigers, to individual snails, cockroaches and spiders, every creature must be accounted for in order to renew the zoo licences for both sites.

The data is also sent to the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the International Species Inventory System, in order to help track conservation programmes.

Zoo animal record keeper at Banham Zoo, Clare Collins, said: “There tend to be really easy animals, like the giraffes and seals, but with things like the cockroaches, we’ve counted 1,458, so to count them every day would be quite a big challenge. Doing it once a year means we can keep a handle on what we’ve got.

“It’s also good for us to keep an eye on other species like the red squirrels because they don’t tend to come and see us, so we’ll get some tasty treats and wait until a warmer day and try to lure them out.

“It’s good for the animals who might not come out and who we don’t see because we can check on them and check their weight and things like that.”

Since its last audit, notable highlights have included breeding successes for the zoo’s Pallas’ cats, which raised four kittens in April, while the last additions to the stock count were twin emperor tamarin babies, born on Christmas Eve.

Among the 28 species and animals Africa Alive staff had to count were 800 Madagascan hissing cockroaches, a small army of Tanzanian red-legged millipedes, about 50 spiny mice, seven royal pythons, 40 greater flamingos, 19 ring tailed lemurs, 21 meerkats, seven lions and five giraffes,

Among the new additions in this year’s survey were three fennec foxes, born in June, and a porcupine born in August.

Sarah Kelly, lead qualified keeper at Africa Alive, said: “The count is important as we get to know exactly how many animals we have. Of course we know everyday how many large animals we have, such as lions, giraffes and the meerkats. But it lets us know how many cockroaches, millipedes and mice we have in captivity and it also gives us the opportunity to weigh them and sex them.”

Keeping the records up to date is not only key to the annual inventory, but also to conservation as together the zoos hold 62 different species which are part of managed breeding programmes.

The coordinators of the programmes, who include zoo experts from around the world, will then contact the animal record keeper for their annual inventories and, based on this, can advise on where best to send animals and which ones should breed in the coming year.

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