21 August 2023

A huge scale operation has started at Whipsnade Zoo, as keepers began coaxing thousands of animals, including lemurs, bears and chameleons, onto the scales for the Zoo’s Annual Weigh In today (Monday 21 August).  

The weigh in is an important part of the animal's expert care, with all creatures great and small having their vital statistics recorded, ensuring zookeepers and veterinarians track the health and wellbeing of more than 11,000 animals.  

European brown bears Minnie, Mana and Naya - who arrived at the conservation zoo in April as part of a global breeding programme for the species - took part in their first Annual Weigh In, measuring over 6ft against their giant rulers, tempted by a dash of delicious honey.  

Four-year-old domestic Bactrian camel Oakley stepped onto an industrial sized set of scales, while two-year-old Critically Endangered blue-throated macaw Stilton swooped onto specially designed perch scales to be weighed.  

Endangered Ring-tailed lemur ‘Quaker’ 2.5kg with keeper Mark Wallington
European Brown Bears measuring up for the Annual Weigh in at Whipsnade Zoo
Zookeeper Elizabeth Brown weighing Critically Endangered blue-crested macaw for the Annual Weigh In
Panther chameleon ‘Peach’ 60g with Keeper Elliott Rose

All the animals’ weights and measurements will be recorded in a shared database called the Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS), which helps zookeepers around the world compare important information on thousands of threatened species.   

Zookeeper Tim Savage said: “All of the animals at Whipsnade Zoo are weighed and measured regularly, but today's 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, we have to come up with creative tactics to entice them onto the scales; from luring our leaping 2.5kg lemurs onto the scales in exchange for their favourite sweetcorn or using honey to encourage our European brown bears to stretch up to their full height against giant rulers. Minnie and Mana proved that bears really will do anything for a taste of honey!”  

As well as a key gauge of the animals’ wellbeing, keepers also use weight checks and waist measurements to identify pregnant animals; important information for their care, as well as for their species, as many are threatened in the wild and part of vital collaborative conservation breeding programmes. 

Whipsnade Zoo is home to more than 11,000 amazing animals, including a herd of Asian elephants.  Protecting threatened species through conservation, Whipsnade also contributes to the reintroduction of Extinct-in-the-Wild species, such as the Przewalski’s horse. Every ticket to the conservation zoo supports ZSL’s global science and conservation work. Plan a visit this bank holiday weekend.   

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