Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Weigh-in for London Zoo's residents

Noemie the camel stands on the scales during the annual weigh-in at London Zoo

Animals had their beach bodies put to the test in the summer sunshine as keepers put them on the scales for London Zoo's annual weigh-in.

Waxy monkey frogs, giant African land snails and tamandua tree anteaters were among the creatures which had their vital statistics recorded.

The measurements are used to monitor the animals' health and shared with zoos across the world to compare information on endangered species.

Zookeeper Angela Ryan, who looks after camels, said: "Every year we like to weigh the animals we have at the zoo, really just for a record so we can share it with other zoos and even conservation projects abroad.

"Not everything can be weighed, but anything that we have that can be trained, from camels to birds, aadvarks to armadillos - even the tigers - we are trying to get weighed today.

"By being able to tell what they weigh, we can use that later on if they're not very well - if they've lost weight we know that they're sick, if they're pregnant their weights will go up, so throughout the year we can use it as a comparative."

Information taken from some of London Zoo's more than 19,000 animals is shared on the Zoological Information Management System (Zims), a database for zoologists all over the globe.

But actually getting the measurements on record can prove tricky, especially when it comes to animals such as tigers or camels.

Zookeeper Paul Kybett was charged with tempting Sumatran tiger Jae Jae to stand up against a measuring tape.

Mr Kybett used horse meat to get the five-and-a-half-year-old male to spread out, and after a few goes was able to measure him at a length of about 6ft 6in (2m).

Asked which animals were the hardest to measure and weigh, he said: "It's down to individuals really.

"Melati, the female, is very difficult because she is quite a nervy animal, very tigress-y and will keep away from you.

"That particular individual is quite difficult to get on to the weighing scales - although we have achieved that we haven't been able to measure her length.

"Jae Jae is completely different - we can do practically anything we want with him.

"Really, species to species doesn't matter, it's the individual to individual that's important."

Keepers found that female two-humped camel Noemie had lost weight since last year, despite coming in at a whopping 625kg (98 stone).

Originally from the Gobi desert, which runs from northern China to southern Mongolia, the Bactrian camels were trained for a month to get ready for today's weigh-in.

"The first time we put the scales in there, it was very scary for him apparently, so he ran to the other side of the paddock and wouldn't come anywhere near us," Ms Ryan said.

"It's taken about a month but we've done it using positive reinforcement, just getting him closer and closer.

"We got to two feet on the scales after about two weeks and the other two feet took the rest of the two weeks.

"It was quite challenging but quite fun for the keepers because we have now been able to get the weight, it's quite an achievement."

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