IT’S a painstaking task but staff at Cotswold Wildlife Park are completing their annual count of thousands of animals at the visitor attraction.

There are more than 300 different species at the park near Burford and thousands of animals and insects.

The count, conducted by every zoo across the country, takes place once a year to check on breeding programmes and to ensure the right environment is being maintained for species.

Curator Jamie Craig said staff have tried using mobile phones and iPads to carry out the stocktake but sometimes pen and paper works best.

Reptile keeper James Reynolds has been given the particularly arduous task of counting stick insects in the insect house.

Mr Reynolds said: “It’s easy enough to count the biggest animals, like the rhinos, but with the smaller ones it is more difficult.

“It’s pretty laborious.

“I counted 900 stick insects and then I started to flag.”

Mr Craig added: “There are lots of breeding programmes and this annual count helps us to keep an inventory of all our stock. Each animal has its own record on a computerised system.”

The curator said some breeds are particularly difficult to track, including mousebirds and Java sparrows in the tropical house.

He said: “At one point we thought we had about 30 mousebirds but there were well over 100 and they were decimating the plants so we have now sent them to other zoos. If one species multiplies too much, it can damage the plant life and that can stop breeding for another.

“It’s a constant balance between providing an authentic wildlife and managing their environment and breeding programmes.”

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