If only animals did come in two by two, life would be easier for keepers at two of the region’s zoos.

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Banham Zoo and Africa Alive

Banham Zoo and Africa Alive both were both given charitable status under the management of the Zoological Society of East Anglia in February 2013.

Banham Zoo opened to the public in 1968 and has become the premier zoological collection in Norfolk with a number of diverse species.

This includes many that are endangered such as the Amur tiger, Grevy’s zebra and Sclater’s lemur.

Banham Zoo Ltd then bought Africa Alive!, in Kessingland, Suffolk in 1991, when it was known as Suffolk Wildlife Park.

The latter is now home to a variety of African species including the endangered Madagascan giant jumping rat, Somali wild ass and East African grey crowned cranes.

Both are members of the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquaria and the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria.

For, just hours after Big Ben chimed in the new year, officials at Banham Zoo and Africa Alive started to count every specimen within their collections.

This annual inventory takes place at the start of each year under the guidance of the zoos’ animal record keeper, and is important for world-wide conservation.

A requirement under the zoo licensing act, records are submitted to the local authorities at the start of each year, and during the course of the last 12 months, there have been arrivals, departures, births and, sadly, some deaths at the zoos.

Animal manager Mike Woolham said the work would take several days to complete.

“People probably think of cockroaches as the hardest to count but the way the keepers do it is to do a complete cage refurb,” he said.

“They take everything out and literally count them back in – you can imagine trying to count hundreds if they were in the cage.

“The inventory is something zoos have done historically for years and, as you can imagine, with paper records mistakes do creep in or there might be changes with animals being reclassified, for example, and it’s a good way to take stock of what you’ve got and make sure all the Latin names are right.

“This is not just a paper exercise to tick a few boxes – it’s a really important thing.”

The stock-take means keepers must check to make sure all animals have been accurately recorded in the global database system Zims (Zoological Information Management System), which is used by zoos all over the world to record information which can be shared with others.

Together the zoos hold 64 different species that are part of managed breeding programmes and zoo experts contact the animal record keeper at this time of year for their annual inventories.

Based on this information, they can advise on where best to send animals bred at both zoos and which animals should breed in the coming year.

“Before Zims, if I was going to send a zebra, say, to another zoo they would ask to see the records and any health issues and that would be emailed over,” Mr Woolham added.

“Now, the system means everyone can look into each others’ records and it makes life a bit easier and a lot quicker.”

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