The twelve days of Christmas has a touch of the wild side at Banham Zoo and Africa Alive!

12 days of Christmas at Banham Zoo for the annual animal count. Animal records keeper Jade Ralph tak

12 days of Christmas at Banham Zoo for the annual animal count. Animal records keeper Jade Ralph takes notes on the number of animals in the zoo. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY - Credit: SIMON FINLAY

As the 12 days of Christmas draw to a close today, spare a thought for the staff at two of the region's biggest attractions, who have been involved in an even more unusual numerical challenge.

Zoo keepers at Banham Zoo, near Diss, and Africa Alive!, near Lowestoft, have been put to the test conducting the annual inventory, which involved counting more than 200 different species across the two parks.

The information is collated through a database – the Zoological Information Management System – which is used by zoos around the world so the information about different animals can be shared for conservation purposes.

Sarah Jermy, head keeper at Banham Zoo, said counting the tigers and giraffes was an easy task but not all the animals are so easy – especially when there are more than 600 cockroaches.

She said: 'The prairie dogs are difficult to count as they live underground. We have a couple of keepers who count all of them in a certain area but you just don't know how many are underground.

'Part of a keeper's job is to

count their animals every day but this is obviously harder with the big groups of deer and flamingos we have.'

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Among the creatures to be counted at Banham Zoo are two Grevy's zebra who were born in July and at Africa Alive! are three fossa, also born in July.

Banham Zoo and Africa Alive! are both managed by the Zoological Society of East Anglia and between both sites there are more than 200 different species, 100 of which are part of managed breeding programmes.