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ZURICH

REVEALED: What are Zurich’s most popular baby names?

Zurich’s most popular baby names from 2021 have been revealed. A strong trend towards short names has emerged - and there’s barely an Urs or Ursula in sight.

What baby names are most popular in Switzerland? Photo by Eric Froehling on Unsplash
What baby names are most popular in Switzerland? Photo by Eric Froehling on Unsplash

On Thursday, Zurich council published its list of most popular baby names in 2021. 

During 2021, 5,251 babies were born across the canton, which is Switzerland’s most populous. 

On top of the list for boys was Noah, with 27 of the boys born last year receiving the biblical name. 

The leader for the girls was a little more controversial, with two different names laying claim to the crown. 

While 28 of the girls born in Zurich last year were called Olivia, there were 44 girls born in total with a variation of Sophia/Sofia. 

REVEALED: The most popular baby name in each Swiss canton

Short names dominated both lists, with Emma, Anna, Ella and Mia ranking high for girls, alongside Leo, Louis and Theo for boys. 

Another trend is that diversity is on the slide in Zurich, with fewer names given than in previous years. 

Swiss tabloid Blick reports that while 15 years ago there were 62 different names for every 100 people, there were less than 50 (48 for girls and 47 for boys) in 2021. 

Middle names are also on the rise in Switzerland, with 57 percent having one in 2021 compared to 48 percent in the 1990s. 

How does this compare to Switzerland? 

Although the 2021 figures haven’t been released for Switzerland, those from 2020 showed Noah was popular across the country as the favourite boys name. 

Olivia however was not even in the top five for girls names in Switzerland, where Mia, Emma and Mila were the most popular. 

Much like pretty much everything in Switzerland, there are significant differences between linguistic regions. 

In total, there were 461 Mias born in Switzerland last year, followed by 407 Emmas and 350 Milas.

Switzerland saw 507 Noahs born last year, followed by 372 Liams and 359 Matteos.

Mia and Noah are the most popular names in German-speaking Switzerland as well as in the country as a whole, which is of course helped by the fact that around 60 percent of Switzerland speaks German.

French-speaking Switzerland, also known as Romandie, saw Gabriel and Emma top the charts in 2020.

Sofia claimed top prize in the Italian-speaking part of the country, while Leonardo was far and away the biggest winner among the boys.

The situation is slightly different among Switzerland’s foreigners, with many opting to stick with names popular in their home countries, rather than those in Switzerland. 

READ MORE: What are the most popular baby names among foreigners in Switzerland?

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ZURICH

Deadly elephant-killing virus at Zurich Zoo stumps experts

A deadly virus has swept through Zurich's zoo, killing three Asian elephants in a month. Experts are stumped about the virus and don't know how to stop its spread.

Deadly elephant-killing virus at Zurich Zoo stumps experts

The zoo overlooking Switzerland’s largest city now has only five of the majestic creatures roaming its 11,000-square-metre (118,400-square-foot) elephant enclosure.

Two-year-old bull Umesh was the first to fall victim to the Elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus (EEHV) at the end of June, followed just days later by his eight-year-old sister Omysha.

Last Saturday, Ruwani, a five-year-old female from a second matriarchal herd also died.

They succumbed at lightning speed to the herpesvirus, which leaves young Asian elephants with internal bleeding and organ failure.

In captivity, this virus is “the main cause of death for elephants between two and eight years”, zoo curator Pascal Marty told AFP.

The virus has also been known to kill elephants in the wild, he said, but “it’s a bit harder to detect”.

Last goodbye

The herpesvirus lies latent in nearly all elephants, both in the wild and in captivity, but can in some cases suddenly become deadly, killing its victims in a matter of days.

“We still don’t know why it happens and when it happens,” Marty said.

The zoo’s five remaining Asian elephants — all adults — were permitted to spend a few hours gathered around the remains of their young family members and companions.

Marty said it was important to give the animals “enough time (to) say farewell”. “It’s very hard to say whether or not they are sad, because sadness is something human,” he said.

But he stressed that since elephants are highly social animals, it is vital that they have a chance to realise when a member of their herd is no longer alive.

“It is very important for them to have closure to understand this individual is not part of our group anymore.”

Less than a week after the latest death, the giant mammals appear to be going nonchalantly about their daily activities, from swimming in a large pond to searching for food.

They slip their trunks into holes, where a computer programme randomly distributes carrots and dried grass, aiming to make the animals walk and search for food as in the wild. 

Stress 

“It is kind of sad, especially because here in Zurich I think the elephants do have enough space,” said frequent visitor Mauro Muller, 29. Zurich zoo opened its new elephant enclosure in 2014, providing its herds six times more space than they had previously.

But eight years on, the zoo acknowledged it was going through “difficult days”.

“It is particularly frustrating that we are powerless against this virus, despite the best veterinary care through the university animal hospital in Zurich,” zoo director Severin Dressen said in a statement.

There is no vaccine, and while antivirals exist, they are not very efficient and even when elephants are treated quickly, only about a third of them survive.

“The epidemiology of the disease is still not clear,” said Bhaskar Choudhury, a veterinarian and member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Asian Elephant Specialist Group.

“The virus is shed intermittently by adults but with increasing frequency during stress periods, which is thought to be the source of infection for young calves,” he told AFP.

“IUCN is highly concerned with the mortality worldwide in captivity and more so in the wild.”

‘Ambassadors’ 

Asian elephants, which can live up to around 60 years old, are listed by the IUCN as an endangered species, with only about 50,000 left in the wild. Deforestation, urban sprawl and agricultural development have robbed them of their natural habitat, while poaching and the illegal ivory trade also threaten many herds.

“The populations are declining almost everywhere,” Marty said, adding that for conservation reasons, “it is also really important to have good and healthy populations of Asian elephants in Europe”.

Zurich zoo, he said, has one of the world’s most modern elephant enclosures, and is intent on continuing with its mission to breed them.

He described the elephants in the park as “partners” in educating people about the problems wild elephants face. “Elephants here at the zoo have an important role as ambassadors for their own species,” he said.

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