Premature Baby Hippo Takes First Steps at Cincinnati Zoo

Posted by Amber King
baby hippo nursing from bottle
Cincinnati Zoo

The Cincinnati Zoo welcomed a new hippo to the herd six weeks earlier than expected.

On January 24, longtime Cincinnati Zoo resident, Bibi, unexpectedly went into labor. The 17-year-old hippo delivered a female calf six weeks before her due date. The premature baby hippo was too weak to stand and couldn't nurse on her own, but zoo veterinarians stepped in with around-the-clock medical care.

Bibi was used to standing still for weekly ultrasounds, and she patiently waited while zoo staff collected milk. Her baby was fed via a feeding tube, and the zoo's nutritionist prepared a nutritional fluid to supplement her diet.

baby hippo
Cincinnati Zoo

As the days passed, the zoo's newest hippo gradually grew in both size and confidence. At four days old, she spent her time between naps building muscle in her very own baby pool. Still 20 pounds away from a healthy birth weight, zoo staff members were thrilled when she started to show signs of supporting her own weight. She even had a little fun by blowing bubbles in the water.

Zoo staff celebrated the baby's one-week milestone by naming her Fiona. She still had a long way to go before she could be reunited with her mother, but she continued to make good progress. Finally, at 12 days old, Fiona stood on her own and took her first steps. She was wobbly and unsure, but the premature baby didn't let that stop her.

Fiona's animal care team is optimistic that their baby will soon be able to rejoin her mother and nurse on her own. She's continually improving with bottle feeding and now weighs almost 37 pounds.

The first two weeks haven't been easy for little Fiona, but zoo staff is committed to helping her live a full and healthy life.

What do you think of this premature hippo's story? Let us know in the comments.

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Premature Baby Hippo Takes First Steps at Cincinnati Zoo