Zoo Basel

Baby Otters: Rascals of the Rhino Yard

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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.

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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.

See more photos of the Otters below the fold.

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Eight Miniature Piglets for Zoo Basel

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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. 

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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.

See more porcine pictures below the fold.

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Peek-a-Boo, Little Porcupette!

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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.

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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. 

See more photos of Zoo Basel's porcupette below the fold.

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Ten Ostrich Chicks Hatch at Zoo Basel

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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.

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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.   

Learn more below the fold.

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Somali Wild Ass Foal Frolics at Zoo Basel

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The rarest animal at Zoo Basel has given birth:  a Somali Wild Ass foal was born on December 27.  Named Jana, this female youngster is “extraordinarily lively,” according to her keepers.

Among Jana’s favorite activities is frolicking with other members of the zoo’s Wild Ass herd.  Her mother, Tana, doesn’t tolerate this precocious behavior from her daughter and immediately intervenes.  Jana is also very interested in the ponies, penguins and ducks that live near her enclosure.  She has been observed walking slowly toward a resting duck, then dashing back to her mother’s side when the duck makes a sudden move!

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Photo Credit:  Zoo Basel

Jana is treasured at Zoo Basel not only for her endearing personality:  She is one of only about 200 Wild Asses living in zoos worldwide.  In the wild, less than 1,000 Wild Asses remain in parts of Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia.   They are considered critically endangered – just one step above extinction.  Zoo Basel is a leader in breeding these rare animals.

 


A Quick and Easy Birth For Third-time Rhino Mom

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This past Monday, Zoo Basel welcomed the arrival of a baby Indian Rhino. The birth was so quick, keepers named the baby Jarj (Nepalese for "instantly"). The calf was strong and vivacious from the start and immediately stood up to begin drinking his mother's milk.

This endangered species is threatened in the wild by poaching, and Zoo Basel coordinates the European Endangered Species Program (EEP) for Indian Rhinos. Jarj is the third calf for mother Quetta and the 33rd Indian Rhino to be born at Zoo Basel.

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Photo credit: Zoo Basel


Golden Lion Tamarin Babies Are A Boon For Conservation

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The arrival of new baby Golden Lion Tamarins on February 14th has brought particular joy to Zoo Basel. Castor (17) and Lilian (5) have become an experienced breeding pair with their second delivery of twins. Last year, they made the headlines with Basel Zoo’s first golden lion tamarin birth in twenty years. This year’s two baby Monkeys are full of energy and doing very well.

The zoo has had to wait a long time for these happy events, as the last opportunity to marvel at young golden lion tamarins in Basel was twenty years ago. The first pairing between Castor, from Sweden, and Lilian, imported from Holland, took place following an approach phase of just under two years in exile whilst the monkey house was being renovated. Apparently they now feel equally at home in the re-opened monkey house, demonstrated by the arrival of their two offspring on 14th February this year. Twin births are common in Tamarin and Marmoset pairings, and are standard for Golden Lion Tamarins.

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Photo credit: Zoo Basel

Golden Lion Tamarins live in family groups of up to ten. In Brazil’s Atlantic rainforest, their area of origin, a family will claim a territory covering an area at least four times the size of Basel Zoo. What is particularly fascinating about these monkeys is the way in which social frameworks vary greatly from family to family. The most common framework is a pairing for life (monogamy), followed by a female with multiple male mates (polyandry) and a male with multiple female mates (polygyny). All members of the group are needed to successfully rear young. For example, the father offers energetic help in carrying the young monkeys around on his back.

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Tiny Titi Monkey Takes a Ride on Dad

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This tiny Titi Monkey is the youngest resident of the Basel Zoo monkey house. Born on December 27, the baby is tiny, and is being carefully looked after by all the family members.

Titi monkeys form lifetime relationships with a partner they choose right after leaving their family group at the age of three. Third-time mother Chica, age 9, and 6 year-old father Gunther are the parents. Gestation lasts for about 5 months after which a single baby -- or sometimes twins -- are born. Two days later, the father starts taking care of the newborn, carrying it on his back, and teaching the little one all it will need to know to become independent. The process takes about 3-4 months. Male Titi monkey are surprisingly caring and attentive and play the largest role in a baby’s upbringing; mothers interact with the baby only when it’s time for feeding. The father tends to its offspring for three to four months, when the young monkey can climb and feed on its own.

In the wild these monkey families live in the lower floors of the South American rain forest. They claim small territories of several square kilometers, where they feed mainly on fruit and leaves. Titi monkeys' survival is threatened mainly by habitat destruction. 

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Photo Credit: Zoo Basel

Delicate Jellyfish Breeding Succeeds at Zoo Basel

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Since the summer of 2011, Switzerland's Zoo Basel has been working behind the scenes with their new breeding vivarium equipment called "Plankton Kreisel". It ensures that baby jellyfish float like the ocean - in a continuous flow.They are so delicate that they could not withstand the corners found in normal tanks. Thanks to a new method of breeding and rearing, they are thriving.

Jellyfish in the vivarium have different feeding rhythms and the Zoo will fluctuate the temperatures within it to stimulate reproduction. This system was discovered by accident when, in December 1987, a cooling system in the vivarium went out for two days. Surprisingly, the jellyfish began to multiply! Now It takes a lot of work and knowledge to employ this new method for breeding them, but it has become a successful effort.  

Jellyfish are composed of two different life forms: affixed (polyps about 2 mm or .078 inches small) and free-swimming medusa, the actual "jellyfish". The polyps produce buds within the fluctuating environmental conditions, which detach with time and in the wild become jellies freely floating in the sea. Those jellyfish will in turn become sexually mature after a few months and then produce eggs and sperm.

Thanks to these new methods, jellies can again be seen on ehxibit at the Zoo in all their other-worldly beauty.

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Photo credit: Zoo Basel