When Quetta the Indian Rhinoceros, who is normally calm and relaxed, began nervously pacing at the Basel Zoo on Saturday, January 7, keepers suspected that she might be in labor. Quetta remained in her stall all night, alternately standing and lying down. Around 11:45 PM, she delivered a healthy male calf after a 492-day pregnancy.
Born while his mother was standing up, the calf, named Orys, landed on his back but soon rolled onto his stomach. Within an hour he was standing on wobbly legs. Though he is tiny compared to his mother, Orys weighed an impressive 150 pounds a few days after birth.
Photo Credit: Basel Zoo
Basel Zoo has a long history of breeding Rhinos. Orys is Quetta’s fourth calf and the 35th Indian Rhinoceros to be reared at Basel Zoo. The first Indian Rhino birth in a European Zoo occurred at Basel Zoo in 1956.
Every Rhino birth is significant. Once ranging across Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent, Indian Rhinos are now found only in a few protected areas in India, Nepal, and Pakistan. Indian Rhinos are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, with about 3,500 individuals remaining in the wild. Indian Rhinos are one of five Rhino species in the world, and all are under threat.
Basel Zoo coordinates the International Studbook and the European Endangered Species Programme for Indian Rhinos and is active in the ‘Indian Rhino Vision 2020’ project to conserve wild Rhinos in India. Globally, about 220 Indian Rhinos live in zoos.
At the beginning of November, two Llamas were born the same day at Zoo Basel.
The half-brothers, who look like night and day, were both sired by Salvajo. Darkly hued Novio was born to mom, Nala, and his lighter colored brother, Nabo, was welcomed by mom Saphira.
Zoo Basel keepers discovered newborn Novio, early on the morning of November 2, in the stable. Saphira gave birth to her boy Nabo on the evening of the same day.
The half-brothers enjoy playing together and have already begun to measure their strength with playful battles.
Photo Credits: Zoo Basel
The Llama (Lama glama) is a domesticated South American camelid, widely used as a meat and pack animal by Andean cultures since the Pre-Columbian era.
At birth, a baby Llama (called a cria) can weigh between 9 and 14 kg (20 and 31 lb). Llamas typically live for 15 to 25 years, with some individuals surviving 30 years or more.
They are very social animals and live with other Llamas as a herd. The wool they produce is very soft and lanolin-free. Llamas are intelligent and can learn simple tasks after a few repetitions.
The gestation period of a Llama is 11.5 months (350 days). Dams (female llamas) do not lick off their babies, as they have an attached tongue that does not reach outside of the mouth more than half an inch. They are said to nuzzle and hum to their newborns.
As inhabitants of the highlands, Llamas are accustomed to great temperature differences and are highly adaptable, with their woolly dress protecting them from cold.
Zoo Basel welcomed nine rare Black-tailed Antenna Stingrays on November 5th. The small, yet sensational pups are doing well and can be seen in the zoo’s aquarium exhibit.
The Black-tailed Antenna Stingray (Plesiotrygon nana), also known as the Dwarf Antenna Ray, is a freshwater Stingray that is native to the rivers and sections of the rear Amazon Basin in Eastern Peru. The small Stingray was scientifically described for the first time in 2011. They are one of two recognized species in the family Potamotrygonidae (the other being the Long-tailed River Stingray).
Photo Credits: Zoo Basel
The species does not lay eggs. Stingrays are ovoviviparous: bearing live young in litters of five to 13. The female holds the embryos in the womb without a placenta. Instead, the embryos absorb nutrients from a yolk sac, and after the sac is depleted, the mother provides uterine "milk". Shortly before the actual birth, the young press themselves out of the eggshell and are immediately independent.
The Lesser Kudu herd at Zoo Basel welcomed a new calf. The young male was born October 29 to mom, Cony.
Keepers report that the little Kudu, named Namib, was standing within an hour of birth. Mom and calf have been bonding in the safety and warmth of their barn. Mom’s wild instinct is to keep her calf hidden from danger in a sheltered place, and the zoo’s barn allows her to act on these inclinations. After a few days, when the young calf is strong enough, mom will lead him to join the rest of the herd.
On the night of October 25, Zoo Basel welcomed a baby Hippo. Keepers aren’t sure if the calf is a female or a male, so it has not yet received a name.
Zookeepers suspected for several days that the birth was imminent. Hippo mom, Helvetia, was restless and moody. The day before the birth, Helvetia ate very little and preferred to stretch and stretch in the water.
As the keepers began their rounds on the morning of October 25, the discovered the calf had arrived. Although the weather was still warm and the water was not cold, keepers felt it was a bit too chilly for a newborn, so Helvetia and the calf were moved to the warm barn.
Photo Credits: Zoo Basel
After spending several weeks tucked away with mom, the calf now has access to the public area of the exhibit.
The calf is learning to swim and hold its breath quite well under water. The 30 to 50-kilogram calf currently feeds exclusively on breastmilk, but in a few weeks keepers say it will begin to eat solid food.
The calf’s father, Wilhelm, continuously tries to catch a glimpse of the new little one, but protective mom, Helvetia, does not think it is time for the two to meet. If he comes close to her, she shoos him away with unmistakable head blows. Keepers say that this will settle with time, and as the calf grows, in a few weeks, the whole family will share their exhibit.
Zoo Basel keepers request that visitors approach the mother and calf as quietly as possible, in order to help them maintain the developing bond.
The little Hippo is the eleventh offspring of Wilhelm and Helvetia.
Today, October 18th, is the inaugural “World Okapi Day”, and there is no better way to celebrate than by announcing the arrival of a new Okapi calf!
In the early morning of October 1st, Zoo Basel welcomed their first Okapi birth in eleven years! The little bull calf, named Nuru, is the son of Mchawi. Keepers say he is a strong guy and has been exploring the indoor stables with great curiosity.
Photo Credits: Zoo Basel
Nuru is the first male calf for mom, Mchawi. Born in 2011 at Antwerp, Mchawi has lived at Basel Zoo since 2014. The genetic basis of the EEP (European Endangered Species Programme) was very narrow for the Okapi. Zoo Basel decided a few years ago, in consultation with the EEP, to expand this base by importing new animals from the United States. At the end of this reshuffling, three animals found new homes at Zoo Basel: new mom, Mchawi, an eight-year-old bull Imba (who came from Dallas Zoo, US, in 2013), and five-year-old Ebony.
The hard work and efforts, of the EEP and cooperating Zoos, have paid off. Nuru seems to be a curious, courageous, and healthy calf. Keepers report that he sometimes skips naptime for jumping capers through the stables. It's too cold for the little guy to spend time in the outdoor exhibit, but when the temperatures warm, and Nuru is older, he will enjoy the outdoors as well. His current exhibit house is open for visitors, but they are asked to be patient. Nuru frequently withdraws for long periods of time to bond with his mom.
The breeding of the Okapi at Zoo Basel has a long history, with many interruptions. For the Zoo’s 75th anniversary in 1949, they received a bull from the Epulu-Breeding Station (in what was then known as the Belgian Congo). In the years 1955 and 1956 more animals came, and the first calf for the Zoo was born in 1960. After several decades of unsuccessful breeding attempts, a calf was born in 2005. The birth of Nuru has been an exciting boost to the Zoo’s efforts at helping to preserve this endangered species.
The Okapi (Okapia johnstoni) is a giraffid artiodactyl mammal native to the northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa. Although the Okapi bears striped markings reminiscent of Zebras, it is most closely related to the Giraffe. The Okapi and the Giraffe are the only living members of the family Giraffidae.
The Okapi stands about 1.5 m (4.9 ft) tall at the shoulder and has an average body length of about 2.5 m (8.2 ft). Its weight ranges from 200 to 350 kg (440 to 770 lb). It has a long neck, and large, flexible ears. Its coat is a chocolate to reddish brown, much in contrast with the white horizontal stripes and rings on the legs and white ankles. Male Okapis have short, hair-covered horns called ossicones, less than 15 cm (5.9 in) in length. Females possess hair whorls, and ossicones are absent.
Okapis are primarily diurnal but may be active for a few hours in darkness. They are essentially solitary, coming together only to breed. Okapis are herbivores, feeding on tree leaves and buds, grasses, ferns, fruits, and fungi.
The gestational period for females is around 440 to 450 days, and usually a single calf is born. The juveniles are kept in hiding, and nursing takes place infrequently. Juveniles start taking solid food from about three months, and weaning takes place at six months.
Okapis inhabit canopy forests at altitudes of 500–1,500 m (1,600–4,900 ft). They are endemic to the tropical forests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where they occur across the central, northern and eastern regions.
A Miniature Pig named Jolly became a first time mother on August 14, at Zoo Basel. Jolly gave birth to eight wiggly Piglets: four males and four females. Despite her lack of experience, Jolly’s instincts have been spot-on, and she is a very attentive mother.
Before the birth, Zoo Basel staff made note of Jolly spending an entire day attending to her nest, focusing on arranging the thick bed of straw. Her Piglets arrived at night, and the keepers found the happy little family the next morning.
Sire, Jack, is an experienced father and has a lot of offspring. For many years, he formed a successful breeding pair with female, Jill. Unfortunately, Jill died after an emergency C-section in the spring of 2015. His new pairing with Jolly has been, obviously, successful.
Jack will have to wait a bit until he is allowed an introduction to his newest offspring. In the first days, the females defend their Piglets strongly and do not let the father in the straw bed. However, there is no worry, as Jack is always very interested in his offspring. According to keepers, he has been known to patiently let his Piglets play and crawl on his belly.
Photo Credits: Zoo Basel
The young Mini Pigs at Zoo Basel will remain in the stable of the children’s zoo for their first few weeks of life. They will gradually be introduced to the daily visit to the outdoor enclosure.
The Miniature Pig (also Mini Pig, Micro Pig, or Teacup Pig) Sus scrofa domesticusis is a breed that weighs between 60 pounds (27 kg) and 300 pounds (140 kg) when fully grown.
They were first used for medical research in Europe before being introduced to the United States in the 1980s. Since then, the animals have been used in studies by scientists around the world, and have also risen in popularity as companion animals.
A Mini Pig’s diet consists mainly of vegetables, fodder, hay, and straw. Gestation for a female lasts about a total of three months, three weeks, and three days. Litters generally occur with anywhere from six to twelve Piglets. Life expectancy is estimated to be around 20 - 30 years.
Since mid-June, the Africa Enclosure at Basel Zoo has had a new main attraction: a young Grant’s Zebra. Shortly after the birth, the mother and foal headed out into the enclosure with the rest of the herd and have since been delighting the zoo’s visitors.
Basel Zoo’s Africa Enclosure is currently attracting large numbers of visitors. The reason for this is clear: they all want to see the colt Nyati, who was born on June 19th.
This is the fifth foal that the mother Chambura (age 11) has given birth to. The father is Tibor (age 6). Nyati was born in the stall in the early hours of the morning, and a Zookeeper was fortunate enough to observe the birth.
Photo Credits: Zoo Basel
Zebras have a gestation period of one year, and births are relatively swift. While the mother lies on the floor, the rest of the herd stands guard nearby. One extraordinary characteristic is that baby Zebras are extremely active, almost straight after they are born. They stand up after little more than ten minutes, can already start to walk after another twenty minutes and, another ten minutes later, start to gallop. According to Adrian Baumeyer, curator of the Africa Enclosure, this is “vital to the animals’ survival” in the wild.
In the first few days after the birth, the mother generally keeps other members of the herd at a distance, until she has established a strong bond with the foal. On the second day after Nyati’s birth, mother and foal headed out into the enclosure with the rest of the herd. During the first week, this activity was supervised to prevent Nyati falling into the moat while learning to walk.
Foals are suckled for six to eight months. Colts have to leave the herd after one to one-and-a-half years. They are driven away by their father and, in the wild, join a group of bachelors comprising five to ten stallions, in which they remain for three to five years. After this time, the bachelors start to challenge the stallions, which lead a herd with several mares, to an even greater extent. If a stallion shows weakness, it is driven away. A new stallion then takes over the mare herd.
Basel Zoo’s Africa Enclosure is a community enclosure with Zebras, Ostriches and Hippopotamuses. It opened in July 1992. The first animals to move in were a young Hippopotamus pair and a small herd of Zebras. The Ostriches joined these one-year later. During the day, a partition exists between the Zebras and the Ostriches on one side of the enclosure and the Hippopotamuses on the other side, preventing any direct contact between the animals. At night, either the Hippopotamuses or the Zebras can then use the enclosure.
Grant's Zebra (Equus quagga boehmi) is the smallest of six subspecies of the plains Zebra. This subspecies represents the Zebra form of the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem.
Zebras are widespread in Eastern Africa. They live in the savannah and open forests. They are highly dependent on water and need to drink almost daily to survive. They primarily feed on grass, leaves and bark. A zebra’s stripe pattern is its most striking feature and as unique as a human fingerprint. The animals use this pattern to recognize each other.
Four Reindeer were born at Zoo Basel in quick succession between April 20 and May 5. All four calves were healthy, following their mothers and nursing within just a few hours of their births.
Photo Credit: Zoo Basel
Zoo staff are always pleased to see babies nurse soon after birth, because this is the only time when the mothers produce colostrum milk. Colostrum is rich in antibodies that protect against disease in newborns with underdeveloped immune systems. Reindeer milk is rich in fat, which allows the young animals to grow very quickly in a short period of time – something vital for their survival in the bitterly cold Arctic tundra.
Before giving birth, pregnant female Reindeer separate themselves from the herd and look for a quiet location, usually a stall in the barn. When a calf is born, the zoo’s veterinarians examine the newborn, insert an ID chip, deliver a selenium and Vitamin E shot to prevent white muscle disease, and antibodies to boost their immune system. Their navel is also disinfected with an iodine solution.
Reindeer have unusual feeding habits, and the nutritional quality of their food is more important than the quantity. In the Arctic tundra where they live, Reindeer feed mainly on lichens, which are a good source of energy. They do not graze on grasses, which are high in fiber and low in nutrients. At the zoo, the Reindeer receive hay, vegetables, and pelleted food supplemented with vitamins and minerals.
Reindeer are the only species of domesticated deer and the only one where the females have antlers. On their seasonal migrations, huge herds of more than 100,000 Reindeer migrate up to 3,000 miles - the longest migration of any land mammal. Reindeer have another peculiar characteristic, which can be heard if you stand close by: when they walk, they make a soft clicking noise. This sound comes from a tendon on their hind legs that slips over the bone as they walk.
Just a few weeks old, six Wild Boars born March 11 at Zoo Basel constantly play, romp, gallop, and make mischief together.
The piglets haven’t stopped since they came out of their den a few weeks after birth. According to keepers, the piglets run excitedly around their enclosure, then flee to the safety of their mothers if they fear any danger. Speaking of danger, the piglets will even climb recklessly on their snout of their sleeping father, a huge male Wild Boar. Dad makes it clear he does not like this, but the piglets persist in their play.
Photo Credit: Zoo Basel
Litters of young Wild Boars nurse for four to five months and develop a "suckling order" after a few weeks: every piglet competes for its own teat, with the good positions at the back taken by the stronger offspring. The easily-digestible milk means that the young nearly double their birth weight in just two weeks.
With striped coats, the piglets can easily blend into their wooded surroundings. By the time they are six months old, the piglets take on the black coloration of adult Wild Boars.
Native to much of Europe, Asia, and northern Africa, Wild Boars are the most wide-ranging mammals in the world. In the early 20th century, some populations were nearly eradicated, but Wild Boars have recovered most of their original range. Wild Boars have been introduced in North America, South America, Australia, and other areas.