Zoo Basel

Rare Giraffe Calf Surprises Keepers at Zoo Basel

Kordofan_giraffe_majengo_mutter_sophie_ZOB0584When keepers arrived at Switzerland’s Zoo Basel in the early morning on April 1, they were greeted by a brand-new arrival:  female Giraffe Sophie had just delivered a healthy baby boy!

Kordofan_giraffe_majengo_vater_xamburu_ZOB0966Photo Credit:  Zoo Basel

A video camera installed in the barn revealed that Sophie became restless at about 4:45 AM and kept looking at her belly.  After just a few hours of labor, her calf was born at 7:10 AM.  Another female Giraffe, named Kianga, was present during the birth and the calf’s father, Xamburu, looked on.  Though both were very interested in the new arrival, Sophie would not allow them to get too close.

The calf, named Majengo, easily walked onto a scale later in the day and weighed in at 123 pounds.  He stood about six feet tall.  For now, Majengo gets most of his nourishment by nursing, but he has already nibbled on leaves and alfalfa hay.

The Giraffes at Zoo Basel are members of a rare subspecies known as the Kordofan Giraffe.  Found in southern Chad, the Central African Republic, Cameroon, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kodofan Giraffes inhabit some of Africa’s most hostile regions.  Only about 3,000 Kordofan Giraffes are thought to remain in the wild.  They can be distinguished from other Giraffe subspecies by their pale spots.

See more photos of the rare calf below.

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Four Fluffy Female Cheetah Cubs for Zoo Basel

Jung_geparden_ZO25740The birth of four Cheetah cubs on July 24 at Zoo Basel demonstrates the importance of inter-zoo cooperation and keeper knowledge to help an endangered species reproduce.

Jung_geparden_TOR1746_bPhoto Credit:  Zoo Basel

On April 24 this year, keepers noticed that instead of spitting at each other through the fence as they normally did, Cheetahs Alima and Gazembe were expressing interest in each other with loud purrs. Alima was rolling on her back, a sure sign that she was interested in a male visitor. The keepers allowed her in with the male and the two immediately began to mate.

Exactly three months later, Alima gave birth to four healthy and lively offspring. The cubs remained behind the scenes with Alima for six weeks.  Now that the cubs have access to their outdoor yard, keepers report that the sisters often play until they keel over from exhaustion!

Zoo Basel participates in the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP) to cooperatively manage zoo-dwelling populations of endangered and threatened animals, such as Cheetahs.

Breeding Cheetahs in zoos is notoriously difficult. Female Cheetahs are loners, and it is only during the mating season that they allow a partner to approach. For this reason, the males and females at the zoo are kept in adjacent enclosures, which allows them to leave their scent and potentially arouse interest in each other. If a female Cheetah shows interest in a male, keepers must put them together as quickly as possible. If the animals are separated too early then there may not be any offspring, and if they are separated too late they may become aggressive. Zoo keepers must therefore know their animals well and be able to interpret their behavior.

Cheetahs are classified as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. There are only about 5,000 remaining in all of Africa. Since 2013, Basel Zoo has supported the Big Life Foundation in Kenya – a successful conservation project for predators in the Amboseli National Park. The Cheetah population in this park has begun to increase again since the project was launched.

See more photos of the Cheetah sisters below.

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Feeling Chipper at Zoo Basel


Seven Miniature Zebus, in the Children’s Zoo of Zoo Basel, Switzerland, have recently been given identification in the form of a microchip the size of a grain of rice.



Zwergziegen_behandeln_ZOB6032Photo Credits: Zoo Basel

The microchip, also called a transponder, is fitted by a veterinarian beneath the skin, above the shoulder blades and contains a fifteen-digit code that can be read using a small mobile reader. Information on the microchip allows quick access for veterinarians, and includes date of birth, parentage, offspring, and medical conditions or treatment. The ability to differentiate between individual animals of a particular species is also required by the breeding initiatives sponsored by the European Endangered Species Programme (EEP), which enables zoos to ensure genetic diversity among their populations.

The veterinarians were assisted during the procedures by two young Children’s Zoo volunteers.  The girls, who work regularly with the animals at Zoo Basel, kept the animals calm and relaxed during the fitting.

Since the procedure cannot be performed on adult animals without anesthesia, the chips are, ideally, fitted at a very early age. In addition to the Miniature Zebu calves, several other species of zoo babies received microchips.  A Lion cub, Snow Leopard cub, a critically endangered African Wild Ass foal, and a young Sable Antelope received the transponders.  

See more photos below the fold.

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Tiny Hippo is Big News for Zoo Basel

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It's been 14 years since a baby Pygmy Hippopotamus was last born at Basel Zoo in Switzerland. Baby Lani came into the world on March 18, when it was still a little cold for her outside. Now, she joins her mother, nine year-old Ashaki, in the zoo's outdoor enclosure on warm, sunny days. Lani is one of about 135 Pygmy Hippopotamuses in the European Endangered Species Programme and is the seventy-fourth baby hippo to be born at Basel Zoo.

Lani was born early in the morning and the animal keepers were able to observe the quick, trouble-free birth. The bright-eyed youngster was nursing within an hour. When she was born, Lani was the size of a rabbit and weighed about 11.5 pounds (5.2 kg). Since then she has been put on the scales every day. Her weight gain offers information about whether she is nursing regularly. At the last measurement she weighed in at already more than 35 pounds (16 kg). Mother Ashaki currently weighs around 440 pounds (200 kg).

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5 hippoPhoto credit: Zoo Basel

For the present, Ashaki and Lani can only be seen in the outdoor enclosure between 10:00 am and 3:00 pm on warm, sunny days, alternating with the males. The water is still very chilly and the little one should not be allowed to get cold. Lani likes to hide in the bushes, so zoo visitors currently need a little luck and patience if they wish to spot her.

Lani has been very active from the start and mother Ashaki provides her with exemplary care. The little one has now begun to show some interest in solid food and nibbles on leaves. 

See and read more after the fold.

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Z is for Zebu at Zoo Basel


A shy Dwarf Zebu calf born on April 14 at Switzerland’s Zoo Basel is becoming more spirited as it grows.

The male calf is the second for the mother, five-year-old Conny.  Zoo officials were especially pleased with the smooth delivery of this calf, because Conny had already delivered one calf by Cesarean section and had miscarried another calf. 


10153242_676010172436726_2468899010021385578_nPhoto Credit:  Zoo Basel

Zoo officials say the Dwarf Zebu calf was so shy that he hid behind his mother’s legs most of the time.  But curiosity has gotten the better of the calf, and he has started approaching the other cows, looking for milk. 

When the calf approaches the bull, he is immediately chased away and runs to his mother.  But during his photo session, the calf was not at all shy about checking out the photographer.

Dwarf Zebu are one of more than 700 domestic cattle breeds worldwide.  They have a large hump on their shoulders, a droopy dewlap, and large ears.  Because they are tolerant of hot, humid conditions, Zebu are widely used in tropical countries to pull heavy loads and for their milk and meat.  Zebu originated in Southeast Asia.

Colorful Chicks Hatch at Zoo Basel

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Here’s a sure sign of spring from Zoo Basel in Switzerland: eight colorful Silkie chickens have hatched and are now cheeping and pecking away.

The colourful little balls of fluff are exploring their surroundings and pecking at anything that looks remotely like grain. At the first sign of danger they fly back beneath their mother's protective feathers. The eight chicks can be seen in the stall in the coming weeks, and will join the rest of the chicken brood once they are a little larger. 

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5 chicksPhoto credit: Zoo Basel

The hens at the children’s zoo incubate their own eggs and then rear the chicks. A few days before hatching, the chicks begin to cheep, hearing their mother’s sounds through the shell of the egg. After a brooding period of 21 days, the chicks break out from inside the eggshells using their 'egg tooth’, a protuberance on the beak which recedes after the chick has hatched. The newly hatched chicks are already able to feed on their own.

The Silkie chicken is a breed of domestic fowl. Its distinctive feature is its plumage, which almost resembles fine fur. This fine silkiness stems from the fact that the chickens do not have the little hooks, called barbules, which ‘zip’ the barbs of a flight feather together to create a stiff surface. 

Zoo Basel Welcomes a Critically Endangered Somali Wild Ass

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A Somali Wild Ass has been born at Zoo Basel in Switzerland! The foal, named Lakisha, was born quickly and easily on March 27. Zoo Basel is a world leader in the conservation of this Critically Endangered species: Lakisha is the forty-first Somali Wild Ass to be born and raised at this zoo since 1972.

Mom Djara gave birth to her foal in the middle of the day. Coming head and front legs first, Lakisha plopped into the straw and was on her feet just half an hour later! It took another half an hour for the filly to nurse from her mother for the first time. No one was present at the birth and Djara could bond with Lakisha in peace.

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8 foalPhoto credit: Zoo Basel

Lakisha’s father, Gigolo, has been living at Stuttgart Zoo in Germany since last November. The breeding of Somali Wild Asses in captivity is coordinated by a European Endangered Species Program, helping to ensure that pairings avoid inbreeding and produce healthy offspring. 

The Somali Wild Ass and Nubian Wild Ass are subspecies of the African Wild Ass. According the International Union for Conservation of Nature, there are fewer than 1,000 African Wild Asses remaining in the wild. Their major threats are hunting for food and medicinal purposes, and competition with livestock for forage and sources of water.  The Somali subspecies occurs in small populations in Somalia, Eritrea, and Ethiopia.

See more photos after the fold.

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Tiny Sea Horses Dazzle at Zoo Basel


Dozens of tiny Pot-bellied Sea Horses cling to underwater plants at Switzerland's Zoo Basel.  These itty-bitty babies, native to the coastal waters of Australia, will grow to about 13 inches long as adults.


Photo Credit:  Zoo Basel

Like all Sea Horses, females of this species lay their eggs into a brood patch on the males.  The males then carry the eggs for about a month, and the babies hatch and swim off on thier own.  Hundreds of baby Pot-Bellied Sea Horses may hatch at one time, a strategy that ensures that at least a few of these vulnerable babies will grow into adulthood.

Four Feisty Lion Cubs are the Pride of Zoo Basel


The four African Lion cubs born at Switzerland’s Zoo Basel in November are enjoying the great outdoors and behaving just like a miniature pride.  While the cubs play-fight and explore, dad exerts his fatherly influence and the females offer gentle guidance to the exuberant youngsters.


Photo Credit:  Zoo Basel 

You first met these four male cubs on ZooBorns last month, when Zoo Basel announced that two of their female Lions, Okoa and Uma, had each delivered two cubs just four days apart.  Much like wild Lions in a pride, the females are raising their cubs together.  In fact, zoo officials will need a DNA test to determine which cubs came from which mother.

The cubs’ father, Mbali, remains with the females and the cubs (males are typically removed from females and very young cubs in zoo settings).  Because Mbali, Okoa, and Uma came to Zoo Basel from African wildlife reserves, their genetic contributions to the European Endangered Species Programme are highly valued.  Wild African Lion populations have declined dramatically in the last few decades, largely due to human activity.  Zoo-managed populations will become even more important if these declines cannot be slowed.

See more photos of the cubs below the fold.

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Baby Spider Monkey: To Leap or Not to Leap


Baby Monkeys who want to keep up with their older siblings must learn to let go – literally!  Leaping from branch to branch like a daredevil is an essential primate skill.  A Geoffroy’s Spider Monkey born on October 20 at Switzerland’s Zoo Basel is practicing the basics, but still takes refuge in the arms of mother Juanita.

The baby, whose gender is not yet known, cautiously practices walking on branches, but still prefers to hold on tight.  It will be many months before the baby is confident enough to play a game of chase with the other youngsters in the troop.

Photo Credit:  Zoo Basel

Geoffroy’s Spider Monkeys live in rain forests and mangrove swamps from southern Mexico to Panama.  With long arms, they swing effortlessly among the branches, using their prehensile tails as extra “hands.”  In fact, Spider Monkeys often hang from their tails while eating leaves and fruits gathered in the forest.

Geoffroy’s Spider Monkeys are listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.  Habitat loss due to human activity is the primary cause of the shrinking population. Spider Monkeys are also illegally captured for the pet trade.

See more photos of the baby Spider Monkey below the fold.

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