In Pictures

Who's who in the zoo

As the new year begins Chester Zoo's keepers have embarked on their annual head count of every animal at the zoo.

It's essentially a stock take with a difference, taking in 400 species. Thousands of animals, many of them endangered, are part of the compulsory count which is required by UK law as part of the zoo's licence.

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The vital details of each and every individual are noted down so that the zoo can help worldwide breeding programmes. Here, keeper Hayley Gray gets a hand from one of the zoo's meerkats.

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Herpetology keeper Matt Cook does a head count in the exhibit of golden mantella frogs - these critically endangered species come from the island of Madagascar.

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Keepers are used to tallying up penguins, meerkats and lemurs as part of their annual animal count, but with a huge new area set to open at the zoo in 2015, there's an array of other weird and wonderful species to keep track of during this year's census, such as this Vampire crab from south east Asia.

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"Tallying up our Asian forest turtles doesn't provide us with too much of a headache but trying to count the hundreds of stick insects or dozens of mantids is a bit more of challenge!" says herpetology keeper Heather Prince, holding a male Hercules beetle from the rainforests of south and central America.

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The zoo's £30 million expansion will be unveiled in 2015 and will be home to this dead leaf mantis from south east Asia, which is perched on Heather Prince's arm.

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The development, called Islands, is the biggest in UK zoo history and will recreate habitats from areas such as Bali, Sulawesi, Papua, Sumba and Sumatra. It will also house this Borneo eared frog, which at only one week old is already perching on the end of herpetology keeper Philippa Carter-Jones' pen.

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Thousands of bizarre new animals including this tentacled snake, held by aquarian team manager Andrea Swatman, have already arrived at the zoo ready to live in the new area where visitors will walk through different levels and travel in boats, creating what the zoo hopes will be the feel of an expedition.