A huge-scale operation is underway at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, as keepers coax thousands of animals, including meerkats, reindeer and rhinoceroses, to step onto the scales for the annual weigh-in.
As part of their regular check-ups, all creatures great and small are having their vital statistics recorded as a way of keeping track of the health and wellbeing of the 9,500 animals at the conservation Zoo.
Greater one-horned rhinoceros Beluki, one of the heaviest animals at the UK’s largest Zoo, stepped onto an industrial sized scale and weighed in at 1650kg, while the Zoo’s smallest inhabitants, like butterflies and spiders, required extra sensitive equipment to weigh them accurately.
It took a little, gentle coaxing from zookeepers to encourage Heidi the reindeer to step up to her scales, whilst one-year-old scarlet macaws, Haribo, Skittles and Sherbet, swooped straight onto their special weighing perch.
The animals’ weights and measurements are recorded in a database called Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS), which helps zookeepers around the world compare important information on thousands of endangered species.
Zoological manager Matthew Webb said: “All of our animals at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo are weighed and measured regularly, but the annual weigh-in is an opportunity to review the information we’ve recorded, and ensure it is up-to-date and accurate.
“With so many animals with different personalities, the zookeepers have to come up with creative tactics to entice them onto the scales, from luring Northern rockhopper penguins onto scales in exchange for their favourite fishy snacks, to encouraging our ring-tailed lemurs to bounce onto the scales for a tasty reward.”
As well as a key gauge of the animals’ well-being, keepers can use the regular weight checks and waist measurements to identify pregnant animals, many of which are endangered species that form part of the Zoo’s international conservation breeding programmes.
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