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.  

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A Baby Boom of Somali Wild Ass Foals at Woburn Safari Park

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For the first time ever at Woburn Safari Park in England, not just one, but three critically endangered Somali Wild Ass foals have been born. Their keepers are extremely pleased to see these healthy and lively foals join the animals in the Road Safari drive-through reserves.

Five year-old Ira is mother to the first foal, shown in the photos. She came to Woburn from a collection in Switzerland. She is extremely protective of the male foal, and is keeping the other two mares in the herd away from the youngster. Once she and her foal have bonded, she will let the other mares interact with him, but under her watchful gaze. 

The baby boom continued as a second male foal was born on September 28 and a third arrived on October 4. The babies will all be named by keepers in the next few days.

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Photo Credits: Daniel Davies / Woburn Safari Park 

The sire of all three foals is named Simon, who is 18 years old and came to Woburn Safari Park from Poland in early 2012.  Since the gestation period for the Somali Wild Ass is 13 months, the foals were conceived very soon after his arrival. He is a really relaxed and calm stallion who enjoys a little fuss from the keepers.

The Somali Wild Ass is Critically Endangered, with  estimates at only 280-300 left in the wild. Breeding plans are overseen by the European Endangered Species Programme to carefully plan for the conservation and future of these beautiful animals. There are only two other zoo collections in the UK holding a breeding herd of Somali Wild Ass, which makes the arrival of these youngsters particularly important. 


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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Poitou Donkey Foal Delights Visitors at Zoo Heidelberg

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Visitors to Zoo Heidelberg have a treat in store: a playful young Poitou Donkey. The boisterous little foal is male and was born at the end of June born to mother Resi, who is devoted to her baby.  He is spirited, healthy and growing fast, thanks to a large appetite for his mother's milk. 

The strange-looking contraption pictured below is the donkeys' grooming station. They love to rub up against the wire bristles; it gives them a great massage, scratches any annoying bug bites, and cleans off clumps of old fur from the long coats. If the grooming station is occupied, then their second favorite pastime is digging around in the dirt. 

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Photo credits: Peter Bastian / Heidelberg Zoo

Poitou Donkeys are a originally from the Poitou-Charentes region of western France. They were bred to be a strong, hardy working animals, and were even used to pull fire-trucks before mechanization. In the 18th century, it was common to breed these donkeys with mares (female horses) to create patient and durable working mules.  As use of machines for farming and transportation became commonplace, the number of Poitou Donkeys decreased significantly. We can still see these animals today because of targeted conservation measures with growers and regional conservation organizations. 

Meet the New Miniature Donkey Born at Berlin Zoo

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Born at Berlin Zoo in June, this Sardinian Miniature Donkey earns its name. When it stands next to its mom, Grisella, and sister, Pink, who are themselves only waist high, the new foal looks positively tiny. This is the second foal for 8-year-old Grisella, who has proven to be loving and experienced in looking after her baby.

The Sardinian Miniature Donkey is the smallest equine on earth. The breed originated in the Mediterranean islands of Sicily and Sardinia, but can be found all over the world now. Adults range in height from 26 to 36 inches (66-91cm) and weigh between 200 and 300 pounds (90-136 kg). The most common color is gray, like this foal, usually with a dark stripe on their back. Donkeys are herd animals and need to be given a companion. If another donkey is not available, they can easily bond with a pony, llama, goat, or cow. Sometimes they also make friends with the family dog!

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Photo Credit: Berlin Zoo

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.


Miniature Donkey is a Huge Hit

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A Miniature Donkey was born in the early hours of August 31 at the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo.  The female foal was the first for mother Naomi. 

“The foal’s belly and legs were still a little wet when we arrived at 7:30 in the morning,” said zoo keeper Sarah Sloan.  It didn’t take long for the little female, who is also named Sarah, to stand, walk, and nurse.  By early afternoon, the foal was delighting zoo visitors with clumsy romps around the outdoor yard while Naomi kept a close eye on her daughter.

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Photo Credits:  Fort Wayne Children's Zoo

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Rare Onager Foal an Important Birth at Chester Zoo


Chester Zoo in England is celebrating the arrival of a very special foal: a rare Onager. The unnamed male was born to first time mom Zarrin on June 10. Tim Rowlands, Curator of Mammals, said, “Our young Onager is doing very, very well and Zarrin is proving to be a natural mother."

Related to the domestic donkey, the onager is an Asiatic Wild Ass, which lives in the semi-desert regions of Iran. Once common in most of the central and southern plains of Iran, Onagers are now found in just two protected areas. Threatened by illegal poaching, overgrazing and disease passed from domestic livestock, there are believed to be around just 400 left in the wild and very few zoos in the world keep the species.

However, Chester is part of an international conservation scheme and thanks to the success of a breeding program is helping to ensure these beautiful animals are not lost forever. "The species is critically endangered and so the new foal is a valuable addition to the safety net population found in zoos," Rowlands added. "Sadly, as the rarest species of equid in the world, there is a very real possibility that they could become extinct in the wild and so constant conservation attention is required to secure the future of the species.”

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Photo Credit: Chester Zoo

Miniature Burro Makes An Entrance!

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Nina may be a Miniature Burro, but she made a pretty big entrance into the world at the St. Louis' Children's Zoo this week. Her mom, Miss Barney, gave birth to the little foal on Tuesday morning, October 4, 2011, in full view of on-looking visitors, Zoo staff and volunteers.

Almost immediately mom began to clean her. Soon after Nina wobbled onto all four legs, she started nursing. Nina weighs 31 pounds and stands 23 inches tall. She can be seen with her mother and "Aunt Patches" at the Children's Zoo. Miss Barney and Patches came to the Saint Louis Zoo this summer.

Donkeys are the smallest member of the horse family and are herbivores. Ancestors of the mini burro, or miniature donkey, come from the island of Sicily near the Mediterranean Sea.

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Photo Credit: Michael Abbene

Father's Day Foal Born at Blackpool Zoo

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Danny the miniature donkey, Blackpool Zoo’s resident stallion, has become a father just in time to celebrate the national day of recognition for dearest dads! A tiny female foal, who has been named Leah by keepers, was born to mom Charlene on June 11.The birth was uncomplicated, with no intervention from staff needed. She is the first baby to be born in the Zoo’s brand new Children’s Farm and is already a huge hit with the public. One look and you can see why!

Charlene and Leah (below) are currently housed their own separate area but will be introduced back into the herd very soon. For the first three months Leah will feed exclusively from her mother, although she will start picking at and exploring grass and hay in the coming weeks. She will be fully weaned at around six months.

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The birth brings the number of Mediterranean miniature donkeys to six with the others being Amanda, Emma, the foal’s older sister Eliza and, of course mother Charlene and father Danny.

Jude Rothwell, Marketing and PR Co-ordinator at Blackpool Zoo, UK, said: “We are delighted to welcome the adorable little Leah to our herd. We have a long and successful history of breeding Mediterranean miniature donkeys and have been keeping them here at the zoo since 1998." Jude adds, "Anyone treating their dad to a Father’s Day trip to the zoo should certainly head down to the Children’s Farm to see just how cute she is!”

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Photo Credit: Blackpool Zoo

Hailing from Sicily and Sardinia, the Mediterranean miniature donkey is almost extinct in the wild in their native land, though breeding programs have been very successful in the United States. When fully grown they at stand at between 30 and 36 inches tall.