The term pachyderm (meaning thick-skinned animals) is the original classification for elephants, hippopotamuses, rhinoceroses, pigs and tapirs. Wilhelma's pachyderms live in two houses, the Elephant House and the Hippopotamus House. Our two Asian elephant ladies, Zella and Pama, live in the Elephant House. Up to year 2010 it had been four elephants, since then two of the "old ladies" died. One of them was Vilja, she died in July 2010. Vilja was born in 1948 and considered to be the oldest Asian elephant living in any European zoo. With her and two other elephants, elephant keeping began at Wilhelma in 1952.
The great Indian rhinoceroses live in the same house – mainly the breeding pair Sani and Bruno. Wilhelma is very successful at breeding rhinoceroses. All in all 16 baby rhinoceroses have been born here since 1971. This is an important contribution to the preservation of this species, which is in danger of extinction
Hippopotamuses, amongst other animals, inhabit the Hippopotamus House. They used to be called "Nilpferd" (Nile horse) in German, but they are now extinct along the River Nile. Hippos have the habit of marking their territory with their excrement in any clear water. And so they mostly lie in rather murky water in the daytime. As well as the breeding pair Mike and Rosi there is also Hannibal, the smaller pigmy hippopotamus. Together with these, we also have a group of babirusas, which belong to the pig family. The babirusas from the Indonesian island of Sulawesi regularly have young ones, something which only succeeds at very few zoos.
Non-African hoofed animals live on the so-called Ranch, an outdoor compound that begins above the Hippopotamus House and extends as far as the entrance to the Demonstration Farm. In this area there are takins, onagers and American bison.
The original habitat of the takins is the Himalayas, where these animals often live in herds of up to 100 in size. Takins are excellent climbers. It is difficult to describe what they look like. Zoologists also have problems in systematically classifying them: they seem to be part mountain goat, part cattle.
A further species of hoofed animal from Asia is the onager. Onagers are Asiatic wild asses and are amongst the rarest animals in the world. In their true home, the deserts and semi deserts of Iran, there are only some 600 animals left today. Around the world there are a further 150 living in zoos. Like the onagers, the anoas are also in danger of extinction. The anoa is the daintiest and smallest species of wild cattle. There are only anoas living in the wild on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, like the babirusas.
On the way up to the Demonstration Farm you will find the paddock of the American bison. The American bison is a species of wild cattle that was often to be found earlier in great numbers on the open prairies of North America. Because the whites colonized the land and drove out the Indians, the bison population dwindled dramatically. It was not until the very last minute that the American bison was saved from extinction.