The Elephants in Basel Zoo (the Zolli)

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0.1 Malayka, the easy-going one

Distinguishing features: smooth forehead, hardly any tail hair, very long, slim and pointy tusks, which point downwards.
Malayka, born in 1971, spent her youth in Switzerland's Circus Knie and joined the Zolli group in 1984. She is considered very easy to get along with and talented, but a little bit sluggish. As a result she avoids all 'unnecessary' exertion and often stands around in the sun with crossed back legs and dozes with half-closed eyes. When meal-times come around, however, all her spirits come awake immediately.
Malayka is the lowest-ranked of the three grown-up cows. Thus her relationship with the rapidly growing Maya, the oldest and highest-ranked of the three young elephants, is often a little tense, as Maya will influence the grown-up's hierarchy first.


0.1 Heri, the watchful one

Distinguishing features: clear horizontal wrinkles on her forehead, short tusks. Heri was born in Krüger National Park in South Africa in 1976.
Heri went to Hanover Zoo in 1979 and came to Basel in 1988. Heri is the attentive, careful and protective 'aunt' who always looks after the three teenagers circumspectly. Even though she is basically quiet and very easy to get along with, Heri can get excited very quickly about things she is not used to or in reaction to what appears to be a threat, and can react temperamentally. Her inquisitive, keen-to-learn and active nature makes her the focal point of the daily elephant training.
Even though she is only the second-ranked elephant, she nevertheless determines the group's fortunes. After the death of the very old Ruaha she will presumably take over the matriarch's role.


0.1 Rosy, the playful one

Distinguishing features: smooth forehead, her right tusk is a little bit shorter and emerges higher than her left one. Both teeth point forwards.
She was probably born in the Tuli Reserve in Botswana in 1995. Rosy is, in complete contrast to Maya, very playful and loves direct body contact, both with her fellow elephants as well as with the wardens. She has a very gentle nature, which is why she is already outranked by the substantially younger, but very self-confident Yoga.


0.1 Maya, the shy one

Distinguishing features: Even though Maya is the largest of the three young elephants, she has no tusks. She was probably born in the Tuli Reserve in Botswana in 1994.
There have always been individual elephant families in which occasionally babies have been born without any basis for growing tusks (just as there are humans who are born with four or six incisors instead of eight, which would be more 'normal'). If these very effective instruments for levering, pushing, breaking things open and digging are missing, then this has rather negative effects on the search for food and on self-defence, which is why tuskless individuals were less successful in the long term in reproducing than their tusked fellow elephants.
That is why entirely tuskless populations never formed. But hunters, in their quest for ivory and other trophies over the centuries, always only shot animals with the biggest possible tusks, so that the genetic 'mistake' of tusklessness was transformed into an advantage. As a result of this human interference, tuskless individuals are over proportionally strongly represented today.
Maya appears to be a rather shy character, serious and quiet. She is altogether pretty easy to get along with, however, but she doesn't like to be touched and she likes to keep her distance. Maya is, on account of her age and size, the boss of the Tuli group.


1.0 Yoga, the young rascal

Distinguishing features: distinct wrinkles on his forehead, both tusks are about the same length and grow downwards. He was probably born in the Tuli Reserve in Botswana in 1996.
Yoga learns incredibly fast and is interested in everything, especially if it is edible. His appetite seems unquenchable and as an enterprising rascal he repeatedly steals desirable titbits from under the trunks both of his 'aunts' as well as of the other elephants. He is gaining weight accordingly, and as a result also quickly growing in confidence. Grown-up African elephant bulls can weigh over 7 tonnes. They are thus the heaviest land mammals. Yoga will become sexually mature at the age of 10 at the earliest. Males living in the wild hardly ever get to reproduce before they are twenty years old, however, because the large, over thirty-year-old bulls dominate the younger males.


0.1 Ruaha, the matriarch

29.07.2010 World's oldest elephant Ruaha died

World's oldest elephant Ruaha died at the age of 59 at Basel zoo in Switzerland. She was brought to the zoo in 1952 as a one year old calf. The zoo keepers found her dead on thursday morning and the fellow elephants in the zoo paid their last respects by stroking Ruaha's body with their trunks for few minutes.

Distinguishing features: rough, bark-like skin, blunt but mighty tusks.
Ruaha was born on the Ruaha plain in Tanzania in 1951 and has lived in the Zolli (Basel Zoo) since the 1st of November 1952.
She was the oldest African Elephant in human care world-wide. Ruaha's great age can clearly be seen both in her physique as well as in her behaviour, just as it can be seen in aged humans too. The once mighty body had shrunk and her face had caved in. The very old elephant also liked to stand off to the side of the group and enjoyed her peace. On account of her great age Ruaha nevertheless remain the unrestricted boss or matriarch, to used the expression better suited to elephants' all-female herds.
Ruaha's rough, bark-like skin was not a sign of old age, but was the result of the inherited overproduction of horny skin, that is of hyper keratosis. Since her earliest youth Ruaha's horny cells have multiplied too fast in the top layer of skin and as a result the excessively growing horny skin folds up on itself.

More beautiful and new pictures about the african elephants in the Zooli Basel:
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