Image: Baby hippo
AP
Basel Zoo said hippo Farasi, who was born in November and has since become one of its star attractions, will stay in the zoo until a place is found for him elsewhere.
updated 3/13/2009 10:26:56 AM ET 2009-03-13T14:26:56

A Swiss zoo on Friday rejected suggestions that a baby hippopotamus could be killed and fed to the big cats because of lack of space.

Basel Zoo said hippo Farasi, who was born in November and has since become one of its star attractions, will stay in the zoo until a place is found for him elsewhere.

"We're confident we'll find a place for him," said spokeswoman Tanja Dietrich. Media reports that Farasi will be euthanized for lack of space were misleading, she told The Associated Press.

The Wall Street Journal reported that if zoo officials do not find a place for Farasi, they might kill him and put him into the nearby tiger cage — an allegation Dietrich rejected.

"There are rare cases in which we have to kill an animal" and feed it to carnivores in the zoo, Dietrich said. But this was unlikely to be an option in Farasi's case, she said.

Farasi has to stay with his mother for at least another year because he depends on her milk, she said, adding that the search for a new home is not urgent.

European zoos have a policy of letting animals reproduce as appropriate for their species rather than sterilizing them or controlling birth with other methods, she said. This can lead to a surplus of offspring.

Some of the young animals are regularly given to other European zoos, Dietrich said.

The seven previous offspring of Farasi's mother, Helvetia, have all been given to other zoos for lack of space and to avoid inbreeding, the zoo said.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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