Zoo Basel

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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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. 

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Z is for Zebu at Zoo Basel

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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. 

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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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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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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.

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Tiny Sea Horses Dazzle at Zoo Basel

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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Baby Spider Monkey: To Leap or Not to Leap

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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.

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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.

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With the Birth of an Indian Rhino, Zoo Basel Tries a New Approach

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At Zoo Basel in Switzerland, an Indian Rhinoceros gave birth during the night on October 5. The calf, a boy, was given the name Kiran, a Hindi word for 'sunrise'. Kiran is nursing well and bonding well with his mother, 31-year-old Ellora. On his first day, Kiran weighed 150 pounds (68 kg) and stood just over two feet (66 cm) tall. 

Kiran's 3-year-old sister, Henna, was also present for the birth. This was the first time in a European zoo that a Rhinoceros birth has taken place in the presence of an older sibling, as it occurs in nature. Usually, older siblings are moved to a different location when a Rhino is giving birth in captivity, to help ensure the safety of the newborn. Henna was a bit uneasy with the unfamiliar new arrangement, but it didn't take too long for her to adapt. The three now spend most of their time together in the Rhino barn, although Kiran has started to take his first steps outside.

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Photo credits: Zoo Basel

Also out-of-the-ordinary, Ellora also had the freedom to chose where she wanted to give within her habitat. The experienced mom made a good decision, chosing the private shelter of the barn. Kiran is Ellora's eighth calf, and the 34th baby Rhinoceros born at Basel Zoo since 1956 birth of Rudra, the first Rhino ever to be born in a zoo. Since 1990, Basel Zoo has coordinated the European Endangered Species Program for Rhinos, an international effort to coordinate the breeding of healthy Rhinos in zoos. 

The Indian Rhino, also called the Greater One-horned Rhinoceros, lives in the riverine grasslands and forests of India and Nepal.  According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List, the Indian Rhino is a vulnerable species. Though strictly protected, Zoo Basel notes that poaching has increased in recent years. The zoo supports the Indian Rhino Vision 2020 project in Assam, India, a site dedicated to the conservation of the species. 


Rare Somali Wild Ass Joins the Herd at Zoo Basel

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Zoo Basel welcomed the newest and youngest addition to their Somali Wild Ass herd, Kali. Kali was born on July 3 in the late hours of the night. Kali has been spending a lot of time with his mother, Yogala. His birth is crucial to his species— there are just about 220 Somali Wild Asses living in zoos worldwide. The species is critically endangered and is one of the rarest mammals on the planet. Only a few hundred Somali Wild Ass remain in Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia.

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Zoo Basel has been home to Somali Wild Asses since 1970, with their first birth in 1972. The species is part of a European Endangered Species Program, which helps to maintain zoo populations and ensure the survival of the species. The program is organized by the European Association of Zoos and Aquariums and is coordinated by Zoo Basel.

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Photo Credit Zoo Basel

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Hippo Birth Goes Swimmingly at Zoo Basel

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On July 17, a Hippopotamus was born at Zoo Basel in Switzerland. The little one was born in the ditch of the outdoor enclosure, and mother Helvetia, 22 years old, immediately nudged it towards the bank with her nose, where it was able to rest. It has not yet been given a name, as it is still unclear whether the baby is male or female.

At the beginning of the day on Wednesday, the animal keeper suspected that the time for the birth was near. Helvetia was restless, but still headed to the outdoor enclosure to feed. Shortly after 9 a.m., a tiny head suddenly emerged from the water. The father, 23-year-old Wilhelm, made constant attempts to take a peek at the little one, but Helvetia was having none of it: if he came too close, she would shoo him away with an unambiguous clip round the head. Experience has shown that this will abate over time, and in a few weeks, visitors will be able to see the whole family bathing together.

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The little one has to dive underwater in order to drink from its mother, resurfacing every 30 seconds to take a breath. The baby weighs between 65 and 110 pounds (30 and 50 kilograms) and is currently feeding solely on its mother’s milk, and will only begin to eat solid food in a few weeks’ time. As is common for the vast animals that are Hippopotamuses, the pregnancy was scarcely visible. However, shortly before the birth the mother’s udders began to swell, and Helvetia and Wilhelm started to keep their distance from each other. The little one is Wilhelm and Helvetia’s tenth child. Older brother Habari, now three-years-old, has been living in Pont-Scorff, France, since June 2012.