Huge audit challenge at town zoo

It’s like a cross between an I’m A Celebrity trial and a task on The Cube...

Keepers at Blackpool Zoo have been carrying out their annual animal audit – counting and checking up on every animal in their care.

The original West End cast of The Full Monty, which heads to Blackpool later this year

The original West End cast of The Full Monty, which heads to Blackpool later this year

From the one-off kookaburra to the dozens of scurrying bugs, every creature at the Stanley Park attraction is listed manually, ticked off on spreadsheets and clipboards.

Bugs are counted from their usual homes into empty tanks, in scenes to replicate the popular TV shows, before the tanks are also cleaned and refurbished, as part of the zoo’s regular enrichment programme.

The past year has seen two major changes to the park’s stock – the doubling of its amur tiger population, from two to four, with the birth of cubs Barney and Radzi in June, and the return of four orangutans from Chester Zoo, where they had been moved while a new ape house was built.

While all the animals are checked in and out of their enclosures each day, and are logged each week, the annual stock check is part of the requirements for the zoo’s operating licence, and its details are passed on to BIAZA (British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums).

Andy Bubbins counts the Fruit Beatles and Grubs

Andy Bubbins counts the Fruit Beatles and Grubs

Jude Rothwell, marketing and PR co-ordinator at the zoo, said: “Prior to having computerised records, its purpose was the same as any retail outlet’s stock check – to know what animals you had, especially taking note of any births and deaths.

“It’s not about finding if you’ve lost anything.”

In May, staff were faced with that exact issue, when three highly-endangered cotton top tamarins and two emperor tamarins were stolen in a targeted raid at the zoo.

Four of the five creatures were recovered, although a baby cotton top was never found.

Then in August, four galah cockatoos escaped from the East Park Drive attraction.

Fruit beetles and cockroaches pose the biggest problem to the counting keepers, as they are two of the largest populations despite being some of the smallest critters.

“It can vary a bit with the bugs,” Jude explained. “There are 67 fruit beetles, but some of those were beetles and some were still grubs – potential bugs, I suppose – but they still have to be counted.

“Mammals are more straight-forward, it’s clear if there are four tigers there, although guinea pigs are tricky as they move so quickly and can sometimes hide their babies quite well.”