FROM counting capybaras to adding up African hunting dogs, Dudley Zoo’s annual census can cause chaos for many keepers.

Totting up lions, tigers and giraffes takes minutes - but 70-plus playful penguins, 30 free-roaming lively lemurs and hundreds of stick insects prove more of a challenge for staff.

Throughout the next week keepers will be taking stock of each animal across the 40-acre site as part of an annual audit completed by all UK zoos and wildlife parks as a requirement of the Zoo Licensing Act.

Chief executive, Peter Suddock, said: "Data keeping is so much easier than it used to be when we relied solely on paper records and is now a part of a zoo registrar's weekly tasks. The census is really just a confirmation exercise and provides a round-up of the year end."

The data aids animal management, conservation, research, and education and ensures births and deaths of species are accurately recorded using ZIMS (Zoological Information Management System) – a global system pioneered by research staff at the Castle Hill attraction.

Mr Suddock added: "Records are updated from information provided by the keepers who are very familiar with their stock as they work on that section every day.

"Most of the data collection is straightforward but when you have a dozen very active otters darting around the pools or a group of identically sized tortoises it becomes a bit of challenge and we sometimes have to use scanners and a lot of patience, particularly with our penguins.”