Zoo Basel

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.

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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.

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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


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.


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.



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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Photo credits: Zoo Basel

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.

Baby Otters: Rascals of the Rhino Yard


Two baby Oriental Small-clawed Otters born in April at Switzerland's Zoo Basel are providing endless entertainment as they play with the Rhinoceros family that shares their exhibit.




Photo Credit:  Zoo Basel

The first time that one-year-old bull Rhinoceros Jari came to the enclosure, the otters all ran along behind him and boldly nipped his hind legs. Fortunately, Jari has very thick skin – and lucky for the otters, Jari’s mother chose to chastise them by simply ignoring them and walking off.

When the Otters aren’t pestering the Rhinos, they are often followed around by young wild Crows, who peck them from behind with their beaks.  When the inter-species conflict subsides, the adult Otters are teaching the two youngsters their Otter ABCs. The first lesson: how to dive without drowning.

Zoo Basel’s Otter/Rhino enclosure is specifically designed to meet the needs of these agile little rascals. Aside from dens where they can produce their young, the exhibit is surrounded by a shallow stream where the Otters search for food.  Basking areas and the tree stump are also popular, offering visitors a wonderful view of the animals. 

Oriental Small-clawed Otters are one of the few Otter species to live together in large extended families. They live in Asia next to rivers and shallow waters, and feed primarily on smaller aquatic life, such as Snails and Mussels. Unlike other Otters, they do not hunt for fish in deep water, but instead feel around in the watery sludge for food using their finger-like paws. When they catch something, they first wash it before chowing down.

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Eight Miniature Piglets for Zoo Basel


Miniature Pigs Jack and Jill, both five years old, became parents to eight piglets on April 22 at Switzerland’s Zoo Basel.  The eight youngsters (three boys and five girls) are all black except for one which is pink with black spots. 



Photo Credit:  Zoo Basel

Jack and Jill are experienced parents, giving birth once or twice a year.  This litter of eight piglets is a large one, so it’s pretty crowded when all eight want to nurse at the same time.  Keepers report that Jill’s top row of teats is the most sought-after, and the piglets argue with each other to see who gets the coveted spots.  The piglets are certainly getting enough to eat, because they’ve already more than doubled their birth weight! 

Miniature Pigs are small domestic Pigs, and are popular as household pets.

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Peek-a-Boo, Little Porcupette!


Switzerland’s Zoo Basel welcomed a male porcupette (baby Porcupine) on April 6.  Porcupettes are born with soft, flexible spines, which harden after a few days.  The new baby lives with seven other Porcupines in the zoo’s exhibit.



Photo Credit:  Zoo Basel

Zoo Basel’s Porcupines are clicker-trained, which allows zoo keepers to better monitor the health and well-being of these nocturnal animals, who would rather hide than interact with keepers.  The Porcupines have learned that a click means they’ll receive a tasty bite of food, so they eagerly emerge from their hiding places. 

Porcupines are forest-dwelling rodents that feed on tubers, bark, roots and vegetables. 

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Ten Ostrich Chicks Hatch at Zoo Basel


The Ostrich herd at Switzerland’s Zoo Basel has grown significantly with the hatching of ten chicks since December 20 to mother Manyara, age 21, and father Baringo, age 20. Manyara and Baringo shared the job of incubating their eggs, with the male taking the night shift and the female brooding during the day.  Their efficient system has been perfected over years of practice:  Manyara and Baringo have produced more than 110 chicks since 2000.  All the chicks were brooded and hatched naturally, with no incubators or human assistance.




Photo Credits:  Zoo Basel

Ostrich chicks are precocial birds, beginning to gather their own food as soon as they hatch. Because food is scarce on the African savannah, wild Ostriches will eat whenever food is available.  In captivity, Ostriches will do the same, and have a tendency to become obese. As a result, it’s important for the zoo staff to carefully monitor the chicks‘ food intake. 

Obesity or overly rapid growth can have a negative impact on bone development in young Ostriches. Therefore, feed quantities for the baby Ostriches are tailored to the age and number of animals. Care is also taken to ensure that the feed has the ideal ingredients. For example, calcium – a mineral important for bone growth – is given to the animals via greens, shell limestone, and a special mixture of vitamins and minerals.  The chicks are also weighed regularly to monitor their healthy growth and development.   

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