Fiona the baby hippo was born in January of 2017 at the Cincinnati Zoo, and as a six-week-early premie, she was the first baby hippo to survive such an early arrival. The calf weighed only 29 pounds, while normal calves weigh between 70 and 120 pounds. Like premature human babies, Fiona was born with digestive and respiratory issues as well as troubles with regulating her temperature and metabolism. The zoo’s dedicated staff worked tirelessly to give the tiny calf ’round the clock care until she was able to survive on her own.
Because Fiona was too weak to stand to nurse from her mother, for the first few weeks of her life, the staff had to improvise, milking mother Bibi (can you imagine milking a hippo?), then bottle feeding the little one. Eventually, they felt Fiona was strong enough to be reunited with her mom. However, after spending weeks away from her baby, Bibi initially showed no interest in raising her calf. It was, in fact, many months before the mother started to respond positively (and maternally) to the baby. Fiona’s caretakers reintroduced the pair to each other gradually, monitoring them all the while. Eventually, even Fiona’s dad Henry was allowed to get to know the toddler. Throughout Fiona’s first couple of years, the staff has had to figure out how to raise the calf largely without Bibi’s help, and they’ve been doing a helluva job.
Like the caretakers of April the expectant giraffe, the Cincinnati Zoo kept the public informed about the calf, taking the time to share daily status updates on their website. The story really captured people’s attention, and thus The Fiona Show was born.
You can read all the early updates on the Zoo’s Fiona page (start at the bottom to go in chronological order), and I recommend you read this blog post detailing the family reunion efforts and progress. You can follow The Fiona Show on Facebook and YouTube, and you can learn about all the Cincinnati Zoo’s animals on their Twitter and their YouTube Channel.