Baby Farasi Escapes Death and Feeding to Tigers

Well, that headline got your attention, didn’t it? The media has been all over this story in recent months, making little Farasi so well known he was voted Swiss of the Year for 2008. Here’s the lowdown. A baby hippopotamus was born in the space-challenged Basel Zoo in Switzerland last November. Normally, the birth of another baby hippo would be reported in a blog or two or in local newspapers. However, the media fire storm started when a zoo spokeswoman was quoted saying there was a lack of space at the zoo and that the institution’s policy is to euthanize surplus animals or put them into predators’ cages as food. Oops!

Even the venerable Wall Street Journal reported that little Farasi might be killed or put into the tiger cage. Yikes! Basel zoo officials moved quickly to stem these rumors. “We’re confident we’ll find a place for him,” said spokeswoman Tanja Dietrich, adding that media reports were misleading. “There are rare cases in which we have to kill an animal” and feed it to carnivores in the zoo, she added and went on to say that it was unlikely in Farasi’s case. The little fellow needs to stay with his mum for another year as he is still nursing. When he’s weaned, he’ll be given away to another European zoo, as have his mother Helvetia’s seven previous hippobabes.

Apparently, European zoos have a policy of letting animals reproduce at will rather than sterilizing them, leading to a surplus of offspring. One good thing to take away here, I think, is the fact that hippos can reproduce in captivity. This gives me hope for their future as they are becoming endangered in the wild.

The most recent news on this story is that the Basel Zoo now says that Farasi will stay in the zoo until a home can be found for him elsewhere. It sounds like the public can’t stomach the idea of hippo meat.

The best pictures I have found for Farasi are on the Seaway Blog. If anyone has any photos of Farasi that you would be willing to let us post here, we would be very grateful! For a very complete article on this subject, see or Los Angeles Times. See a video below from the Wall Street Journal:


One response to “Baby Farasi Escapes Death and Feeding to Tigers”

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  1. sue ingram says:

    I am afraid I am one of those who hates going to zoos as I believe the animals would have a far better life outside the zoo. Some zoos are fabulous though, but many are disgraceful in how they are managed and the animals are badly treated. We hear of too many cases where the zoos are closed down by the authorities and the animals rescued or euthanized.
    However, I am also aware that for many animals their life in the zoo is far better than in the wild in that they are protected from man! Zoos in this case also make man aware of the animal’s plight and in many cases provide an educational aspect that is missing for those who don’t get the chance to see them in the wild.
    I also wasn’t aware that hippos are endangered. I have just returned from a trip to Mana Pools in Zimbabwe where at one time I could see 60 hippos on the banks grazing. This was not counting the hippos in the water. Wonderful. One hippo died and became an easy meal for an old tired lioness, but only after she had fought off the crocodiles that also fancied him. Such in a fact of life in nature. Perhaps we can’t be too hard on the zoo, but it would be better if the hippo died of natural causes.
    On the other hand, I breed worms for my fishes!