New year brings mammoth task for keepers at Yorkshire Wildlife Park

6 Jan 2015.......Annual animal stock take at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park nr Doncaster. Amy Miller weighs a lemur.Picture Scott Merrylees SM1006/52a
6 Jan 2015.......Annual animal stock take at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park nr Doncaster. Amy Miller weighs a lemur.Picture Scott Merrylees SM1006/52a
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Getting to grips with all creatures great and small is a mammoth task for staff at a South Yorkshire animal attraction.

Staff at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park in Branton, near Doncaster, have started counting all their creatures as part of the week-long audit of the park’s 243 animals.

The annual official stock-take, which is required by law and takes almost a month to complete, log the range of animals that call the park home.

The park said the census presents a variety of challenges for the rangers – with patience and ingenuity needed to weigh everything from a troop of lemurs to heavyweight polar bear Victor, who tips his special scales at about 1,058lbs.

Simon Marsh, park animal development manager, said: “Not many people like getting on the scales, particularly after Christmas, and animals are no different.

“It is difficult to get them to stay still for the measurements to be taken and, for animals like Victor the polar bear, it is tricky to find the right technique to weigh them.

“But we have to weigh and measure all of them no matter how big or small.”

The official inventory is required by law under the Zoo Licensing Act and for the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

The park has a species list stretching from African hunting dogs to yellow mongoose, baboons, stick insects, snails and giant anteaters - and each presents a challenge to staff.

The lemurs are notoriously skittish and cannot stop playing even when they are being measured – preferring to huddle together on the scales or jump off before the details can be logged.

Crunchie was one of the few who would sit still long enough to have his weight recorded and staff discovered he had got slightly heavier from 2.33kg to 2.34kg over the last year. His friend Casper, a black and white ruffed lemur, weighed in at 3.87kg.

Squirrel monkey Dylan was a healthy 1.02kg while anteater Kounany registered 29kg on the scales.

Mature lions Ares and Simba were a more muscular 273kg and 242kg respectively and young Drake, an endangered Amur leopard, is growing up fast and has reached 60.5kg.

Victor, who moved into his new 10-acre home in August, is a mighty 75 stones.

Simon said: “It can be fun, but it is a long, painstaking process.

“It is one of the more unusual annual stock takes around. One moment you are trying to measure giraffes and the next trying to deal with fun-loving meerkats, lemurs or squirrel monkeys.”

The results from the annual audit will be submitted to the International Species Information System, which contains statistics on thousands of endangered species and the data is shared across the world.