It’s that time of year again and our keepers have been busy filling out Marwell’s annual animal audit which is an important requirement of the charity’s zoo licence.
The mammoth job of counting and recording every species in the park takes place in zoos around the country at the beginning of each year.
New species for 2023 included 3 Egyptian spiny-tailed lizards, three rough-scaled plated lizards and three Algerian Spur thighed tortoise as well as two rock hyrax who are now all living in Thriving Through Nature, the zoo’s former tropical house that was upcycled and reopened in 2023.
The spreadsheet also records all new arrival from other zoos as well as animals that leave Marwell through breeding programmes.
Rhiannon Wolff, animal keeper, Hoofstock, said: “Carrying out the animal audit every year is one of the conditions of the Zoo Licensing Act.
“We have to keep up-to-date records of every individual animal in the zoo: this involves taking note of all births, deaths, imports and exports.”
The finalised numbers have to be submitted to Winchester City Council in January each year.
Bea Cameron, animal keeper, Carnivores, said: “We keep track of all our animals on site all year round but the animal audit is a “snapshot” of the animals in the zoo from one year to the next.
“It helps give us an overall look of our year including births, deaths, and new arrivals, and is an important overview of our conservation efforts from one year to the next.”
In 2023 the zoo welcomed two caracara, five Brazilian guineapigs and four bush dogs – all new species for Marwell.
As well as showing how many animals are in each zoo, the audit paints a wider picture of conservation efforts and breeding programme outcomes on a national scale.
Not every animal can be counted individually. Some of the zoo’s smallest critters are counted in groups to ease the process.
These include critters such as our Extinct in the Wild partula snails as well as assassin snails, sun beetles, crickets and red-legged millipedes.
Fish are also counted in groups along with the zoo’s tiny yellow-throated frogs, the sand lizards that are part of our native reintroduction programmes and our vampire crabs.
In total Marwell tallied 145 different animal species at the end of 2023 compared to 138 at the end of 2022.
The total includes 19 invertebrate species, 14 fish, 3 amphibians, 21 reptiles, 31 birds and 57 mammal species living across the zoo’s 140-acre park.