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Baby Farasi


Before tossing two weeks of Wall Street Journals yesterday, I made sure to take a look at each one’s daily front page feature article, thereby stumbling on the March 13 feature story about the Basel Zoo’s baby hippo Farasi, pictured above with his mother. It’s a troubling story, the main problem being that when Farasi matures, he will not be able to stay in Basel, since there’s no room for more than one male hippo and he will become a competitor to his dad. For the same reason, other zoos will not be keen to adopt him. As the article explains, surplus mammals, especially meaty ones such as hippos, generally are killed and then fed to the lions.

I should add that this is a European zoo issue, not an American one. Here in the US, the animals are generally on the pill, to avoid this problem. In Europe, reproduction is considered part of a normal life:

European zoos say sex, pregnancy and parenting are fundamental needs. “A chimpanzee spends 24 hours a day with its young for four years,” says Robert Zingg, chief curator of Zurich Zoo, which works closely with Basel Zoo. “How do you replace that?”

So why am I posting this depressing story, beyond just taking the opportunity to post a cute baby picture? Well, for one, I used to spend a lot of time at the Basel Zoo, during a brief period of my life in which I found myself in Basel regularly. It’s one of Europe’s great zoos. And for another, I liked the metaphor at the end of the passage below.

It’s extremely difficult to find a hippo a home. Farasi’s bigger sister Heidi found a home in 2002 only after a hippo at the Dublin zoo choked to death on a tennis ball lobbed into its pen by a visitor. “It’s especially difficult to find a home for a male hippo because you can only have one per zoo,” says Christian Wenker, Basel’s chief vet. Hippos also live to be in their 50s, so the lucky male in any zoo is like an old man in a rent-controlled apartment.

Plus, there’s this drawing:


Categories: Animals
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