21 August 2023

11,000 animals ‘lured’ on to scales at Bedfordshire zoo for annual weigh-in

21 August 2023

More than 11,000 animals have been “lured” on to weighing scales at a Bedfordshire zoo to help maintain their health and well-being.

Butterflies, lemurs and bears were a part of Whipsnade Zoo’s annual weigh-in on Monday.

Their weight and vital statistics were recorded on the shared Zoological Information Management System (ZIMS) database, to help zookeepers worldwide compare information about threatened species.

Five-foot European brown bears Minnie and Mana were encouraged on to a set of scales using a “dash of honey”, and weighed 148 and 174 kilograms (328.4lbs and 383.6lbs) respectively.

Tim Savage, team leader of birds at Whipsnade Zoo, said: “We used 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.”

A four-year-old domestic Bactrian camel named Oakley weighed 728kg (1604.9lbs) on “industrial” scales, while a two-year-old “critically” endangered blue-throated macaw called Stilton, weighed 782g (1.72lb) on “specially designed perch” scales.

“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,” Mr Savage added.

“With so many animals with different personalities, we have to come up with creative tactics to entice them on to the scales.

“Like luring our leaping 2.5kg (5.5lb) lemurs on to the scales in exchange for their favourite sweetcorn.”

The zoo, a part of the conservation charity ZSL (Zoological Society of London), told the PA news agency it “pushes” the welfare standards for all their animals.

Mr Savage said: “What goes on behind the scenes is the really important stuff, that information contributes to everything.

“We have as much information at our fingertips as possible and it is this part of the job that we all do that pushes the husbandry and welfare standards of all the animals we look after.”

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