0.1 Malayka – the easy-going one
Born: 1971 in the circus Knie
Since 1984 in the zoo Basel
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
Born: 1976 in Krüger National Park in South Africa
Since 1984 in the zoo Basel
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
Born: 1995 in the Tuli Reserve in Botswana
Gender: female 01.01.1998 bis heute
Since 1998 in the zoo Basel
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
Born: 1994 in the Tuli Reserve in Botswana
Since 1990 in the zoo Basel
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.
All photos and video are by René Nussbaum: www.zollibasel.ch