Zoo count begins: No creature too small to count

Updated 05 January 2013
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Zoo count begins: No creature too small to count

LONDON: In a sea of flapping black and white flippers, Ricky is hard to miss: He’s got spiky yellow feathers, a flamboyant character, and he’s the only rockhopper among the dozens of penguins living in the London Zoo.
That’s a big help for keepers who embarked Thursday on their annual stock-taking of all the zoo’s residents. It’s no easy task, when there are more than 17,500 creatures to count. All animals have to be accounted for, including the tarantulas, locusts and snails.
The same scene was being repeated at zoos throughout Britain Thursday — the census is nationwide. No stone is left unturned, lest there be a beetle below.
At the London Zoo, keepers hope the new year will bring some company to Ricky, who has been the zoo’s lone rockhopper since 2011.
“Ricky’s quite a unique character — he was rejected by his parents and was hand-reared. He’s more interested in zoo keepers than in other penguins,” said zoological director David Field. “It’s time to get him some rockhopper partners.”
In the meerkat enclosure, 11 of the small mammals were only too happy to be counted, climbing onto a keeper’s clipboard seeking attention and food.
An all-female family of nine otters likewise rushed forward at the sight of their favored delicacies: Mice and crayfish. In the invertebrates section, a palm-sized red-kneed tarantula called Jill caused a stir among visitors when she was lifted out of her box for inspection.
“This is quite a docile one,” said keeper Amy Callaghan, who held the spider out in her hand for photographers. “I was a little bit wary of them at first, but now I think they’re brilliant.”
The census is required as part of the license terms of British zoos, and the data is used for zoo management and international breeding programs for endangered animals. The final tally could take weeks.
Most animals in the zoo have microchips in their bodies, making counting a little less daunting. Fish and animals with camouflage properties — such as leaf insects — are trickier, and the tiniest ones such as ants are counted in colonies, not as individuals.
New additions to the zoo being counted for the first time included baby Ziggy, an endangered white-naped mangabey monkey, and Maxilla, a black-and-white colobus monkey.
The zoo also welcomed a pair of new Sumatran tigers — male Jae Jae from a zoo in Ohio and female Melati, from Perth, Australia.
The endangered tigers were matched by an international breeding program to ensure a genetically diverse population of animals.
“We breed them in the zoo because they are running out of time in the wild,” said Field, who’s hopeful the tigers will soon produce cubs.


Six clairvoyant creatures with a knack for scoring at the World Cup

Updated 44 min 57 sec ago
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Six clairvoyant creatures with a knack for scoring at the World Cup

From fortune-telling felines to sea creatures with a knack for backing the winning side, these animals are scoring fans across the world.

Paul the octopus
The sea creature made headlines at the 2010 tournament in South Africa when he correctly predicted that Spain would win the final. His keepers at Germany’s Oberhausen Sea Life Center would offer him two boxes that contained food and had different countries’ flags on the outside — he correctly predicted all seven of Germany’s results. Paul sadly passed away in his tank in October of 2010 — gone, but not forgotten.

Shaheen the camel
A wise camel named Shaheen was discovered by a Dubai-based newspaper among the rolling dunes of the desert and made quite a name for himself during the 2014 World Cup in Brazil by picking 19 out of 29 matches correctly. He has returned for the 2018 edition of the tournament and correctly predicted that Russia would win against Saudi Arabia in the much-awaited opening match.

Achilles the cat
The deaf, snow-white cat who hails from St. Petersburg lives at the Hermitage Museum in the city and chooses between bowls of cat food marked with countries’ flags. During this World Cup, the pet correctly predicted that Russia would beat Saudi Arabia in the opening match.

Nelly the elephant
The elephant took part in a spectacular penalty shootout at the Serengeti Park zoo in Hodenhagen, northern Germany. She made predictions about the 2006 Women’s World Cup and the 2010 World Cup and hit the mark 30 out of 33 times.

Zabiyaka the goat
The white goat, hailed as the “Oracle of Samara,” lives in the southwestern Russian city and predicts winners by eating a plate of food placed behind the flag of various competing teams. The goat this week predicted a draw for Group C match between Denmark and Australia.

Wolodja the tiger
We’re not too sure about this one as the Siberian tiger in the German town of Chemnitz seems to be lacking feline intuition. The beautiful creature was asked to choose the winner of the opening game between Russia and Saudi Arabia but remained staunchly diplomatic and refused to pick a side. Perhaps a posting in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is more in order?