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Local News Summary of March, 16th

  • Elephants of Basel Zoo can enjoy new outdoor area “Tembea”
  • Police raid the red light district: numerous violations discovered at “contact bar”
  • Dufry in the black again

Elephants of Basel Zoo can enjoy new outdoor area “Tembea”

The times when elephants were chained up or used for rides is a thing of the past. A new outdoor area at Basel’s Zoo aims to emphasise a fresh concept for animals kept in captivity: more space and more self-responsibility for the animals. The “Tembea” elephant facilities were presented yesterday and will be open to the public as of today. This weekend marks the opening celebrations. has been to the zoo to see the new installation.

Three years of construction for a “savannah feeling”

It was under construction for three years and now it is finished: the new “Tembea” elephant outdoor area. Nearly three times more space is available for the animals than in the past, and it is also an adventure park for the elephants. The Swahili word “Tembea” means “on the go” and the entire outdoor area has been designed for diversity, with the potential that individual areas can be closed off and reorganised. That way, the animals can find new paths to wander every day, said zoo director, Olivier Pagan.

The elephants are also no longer by zoo keepers but instead have to look for their food in their enclosure, in which there more than 120 hiding places. Like the park itself, these hiding places can also be modified: Sometimes, the food will be hidden in one of the small caves, sometimes in another, or in the “savannah”. Food baskets will be lowered from the ceiling, controlled by a computer.

The area does not consist exclusively of solid ground but offers sandy areas as well. Pits, wet areas, posts, and green areas will providing shade and comfort for the animals. Adrian Baumeyer, curator of the new outdoor area, said that the animals had so far reacted very positively to these new conditions and were already actively using the new facilities.

The entire installation is computer-controlled and automated to allow the partitions to be moved around. A technician can control and programme the feeding grounds and passages. Also, instead of heating panels being under the floor, there is wall heating instead. Older elephants in particular like to lean on a warm wall to sleep – because their age means they cannot lie down at night.

Caretakers have to retrain as much as the elephants

The changes in keeping elephants are not only visible in the new building – the operation of the elephant area has been switched to “protected contact” as well. This means that caretakers and animals can only have contact through bars. The measure has been taken not only for the protection of the caretakers but also so as not to disturb the social relations among the elephants. No longer will a caretaker stand in for the alpha leader – one of the elephants has to see to the harmony of the group.

This means that there will be new procedures both for animals and caretakers. The elephants are no longer forced to undergo an examination – from now on they will do it by their own decision. Nevertheless: even after such a short time, there have already been improvements, it is stated. Thanks to specific training, this process already works

“flawlessly”. Adrian Baumeyer has drawn a positive summary: “The interaction with the elephants has already become markedly easier and more relaxed.”

Don’t forget: It was not that long ago that elephants were still subordinate to their caretakers, were tied up in chains, and had to serve as riding animals. Up until the 1990s, there were daily shows in an arena. Who can still remember these days? A lot has changed since the first Basel elephant “Miss Kumbuk” arrived in 1886 – and the elephants have now regained their dignity thanks to the “Tembea” installation.

However, Thomas Kauffels, director of the European Association of Zoos, added ironically: “We are now doing what is always done when such installations are renewed, and the same is probably going to happen to us in a few decades: we criticise our predecessors and want to make it better than they did.”

Nonetheless, the positive results already speak for the new elephant area.

Police raid the red light district: numerous violations discovered at “contact bar”

The cantonal police of Basel-Stadt confiscated the passports of seven alleged sex workers during a raid at a so-called “contact bar” in Kleinbasel on Wednesday evening.

A total of 34 people were searched, including 21 alleged prostitutes, on the grounds of suspected violations of foreigner law. One person was arrested for breaching a travel ban while a further eight were taken to the police station at Spiegelhof for more detailed investigations. The women are from Romania, Spain, Brazil, Albania, Portugal, and the Dominican Republic.

The manager of the bar is facing charges of allowing the women to work illegally without a permit.

In a separate room on the premises, 15 other guests, a bar employee, and the licensee were also searched. This resulted in one person being fined and a report being sent to the Federal Gambling Commission due to a suspected violation of gambling law. The police also seized three laptops and cash in connection to this alleged crime.

Supported by additional police, the operation was led by the investigative service of the cantonal police of Basel-Stadt together with the Office for Migration as well as the Office of Economy and Employment.

Dufry in the black again

Dufry can look back on an eventful fiscal year in 2016: The takeover of World Duty Free (WDF) in January last year resulted in a strong increase in revenue for the travel retail company.

During the same year, the company also returned to growth through its regular business ventures and was in the black by the end of the year. The management is optimistic about the future.

Revenue increased by 28 per cent (compared to 2015) to 7,83 billion Swiss francs, which was positively influenced mainly by the full consolidation of WDF. Taken on its own, the company saw a growth of 1,0 per cent for the entire year of 2016 after a decline by 5,3 per cent in 2015.