The London Zoo is Counting Animals One by One

Over 300 species live in the zoo and the annual census is no easy task.


The London Zoo is Counting Animals One by One | Over 300 species live in the zoo and the annual census is no easy task.

 The yearly census at the London Zoo, also known as the annual stocktake, takes place every January. While some animals are easy to count, like lions, tigers, and bears, others like ants are much harder.

The census is important because the numbers can change every year due to new arrivals, reported ITV. In 2023, a new two-toed sloth was born and 17 tropical bird chicks were hatched. The zoo is the home of 300 different species.

“The counting takes several days,” Dan Simmonds, operations manager of the Zoological Society of London told ITV. “The zookeeper's are very busy. We count the animals every single day. This formal process of looking at every single animal does take some time.”

How do you count animals?

While ants have to be counted in colonies, other species have to be counted one by one. Jessica Fryer, a zookeeper that is in charge of counting penguins, has a much harder job. There are 74 Humboldt penguins at the zoo.

Fryer told ITV, “The easiest way to count them is when they are having their breakfast. We have a tick sheet, which we tick off every time we see our penguins.” All of the penguins have their own wing band with different colored beads so that they can be identified even if they are swimming in the pool instead of lining up.

Other animals, like the Sumatran tiger cubs Crispin and Zac, grabbed the register in their enclosure and played with it like a toy, according to the news release. Different zookeepers were responsible for counting all the other animals, large and small.

Sumatran tiger Zac plays with a stocktake sign.

 (DLipinski / Zoological Society of London)

Why take a census?

The census of the approximate 14,000 animals, some of which are critically endangered in the wild,  will be shared on a global database  called Species 360 with other zoos and conservation organizations, according to a news release from the zoo. The count is part of the annual license requirement.

The London zoo is part of ZSL, a conservation nonprofit that works to protect and restore wildlife. By providing a home to endangered species that are extinct in the wild, the zoo contributes to conservation efforts through its breeding programs and veterinary research.

Giant Galapagos tortoises are counted at London Zoo by Kim Carter.

 (DLipinski / Zoological Society of London)