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Keepers get to work counting all creatures great and small at Africa Alive!

PUBLISHED: 16:41 05 January 2018 | UPDATED: 16:41 05 January 2018

Africa Alive! lead qualified keeper Zoe Nunn at the giraffe enclosure during the park's annual animal count. 
Picture: Nick Butcher.

Africa Alive! lead qualified keeper Zoe Nunn at the giraffe enclosure during the park's annual animal count. Picture: Nick Butcher.

Archant © 2018

Counting the lions, giraffes and sleeping aardvarks is a relatively quick job for zoo keepers at Kessingland’s Africa Alive! But with hundreds of hissing cockroaches and a host of new arrivals, the team have been extra busy.

Africa Alive! education officer Alice Batts with the African Pancake Tortoise during the park's annual animal count.
 Picture: Nick Butcher.Africa Alive! education officer Alice Batts with the African Pancake Tortoise during the park's annual animal count. Picture: Nick Butcher.

At the start of each year, zoo keepers take on the task of tallying up the number of animals under their watch - with more than 80 different species at the zoo - working with the animal record keeper for both the Kessingland and Banham Zoo site.

And the flamingos, cockroaches and mice are said to be the most difficult to keep in line during the count.

Zoe Nunn, lead qualified keeper at Africa Alive! said: “Everyday the keepers count their animals so we know how many we’ve got but we do an annual stocktake every year as part of the requirements of our zoo licence.

Africa Alive! lead qualified keeper Zoe Nunn with Dobby the baby aardvark. 
Picture: Nick Butcher.Africa Alive! lead qualified keeper Zoe Nunn with Dobby the baby aardvark. Picture: Nick Butcher.

“Most of the keepers have quite an easy job but the education team look after the cockroaches, millipedes and mice which can be quite hard to count.”

Alice Batts, activities and education officer, added: “We counted 327 cockroaches. We started by taking all the big ones out and then we sieved the soil to find the smaller ones. It took us a good hour because there are so many of them and we got covered in soil.”

This year the keepers had even more animals to count with lots of new arrivals in 2017. They included a Senegal bushbaby, pancake tortoise, drill monkey, king colobus monkey, four fossa, two slender-tailed meerkats and two Somali wild ass.

The flamingos at Africa Alive!. 
Picture: Nick Butcher.The flamingos at Africa Alive!. Picture: Nick Butcher.

Not forgetting Dobby QJ the aardvark, who was born in May, and was the first ever successful birth at the park. It means Africa Alive! now has the largest group of aardvarks in the country and was the only UK zoo to have an aardvark born last year.

Mrs Nunn said: “We had a big baby boom which was nice and hopefully it will continue this year.

“Most of our animals are part of the breeding programme so we do expect them to breed and it’s always a nice treat when they do.”

The lovebirds are counted during the annual animal count at Africa Alive! Picture: Nick Butcher.The lovebirds are counted during the annual animal count at Africa Alive! Picture: Nick Butcher.

The keepers work with the animals every day and record all sorts of information about their health and behaviour on the Zoological Information Management System, which is used all over the world to maintain healthy zoo populations.

Africa Alive! education officer Alice Batts counts the Madagascan Hissing Cockroaches during the park's annual animal count. 
Picture: Nick Butcher.Africa Alive! education officer Alice Batts counts the Madagascan Hissing Cockroaches during the park's annual animal count. Picture: Nick Butcher.

Africa Alive! lead qualified keeper Zoe Nunn with a giraffe during the park's annual animal count. 
Picture: Nick Butcher.Africa Alive! lead qualified keeper Zoe Nunn with a giraffe during the park's annual animal count. Picture: Nick Butcher.

The Madagascan Hissing Cockroaches. 
Picture: Nick Butcher.The Madagascan Hissing Cockroaches. Picture: Nick Butcher.

The flamingos at Africa Alive! Picture: Nick Butcher.The flamingos at Africa Alive! Picture: Nick Butcher.

The lovebirds are counted during the annual animal count at Africa Alive! Picture: Nick Butcher.The lovebirds are counted during the annual animal count at Africa Alive! Picture: Nick Butcher.

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