Have you heard about Fiona the hippo? Since being born at the Cincinnati Zoo this January 24, she has become a bit of an internet celebrity. (She even has her own hashtag, #TeamFiona.) The zoo has been providing daily updates about her growth on Facebook and their website.
When you see a picture of her, it's easy to understand why.
Just look at that adorable little river horse! (We didn't just make that up, by the way—hippopotamus comes from the ancient Greek meaning "horse of the river"!)
Anyway, Fiona just turned six months old and we could not be happier. You see, she is no ordinary hippo calf. She was born six weeks premature, or early. So while she is doing great now, her survival was anything but a sure thing at first.
Underweight and in trouble
Underweight is not a term you'd use to describe most 13 kg (29 lbs.) babies, but that is exactly what Fiona was at birth. The normal newborn hippo tips the scales at between 25 to 55 kg (55 to 120 lbs.)—that averages out to the weight of a 12 to 13 year-old human!
When Fiona arrived a surprising six weeks premature, she was weak, and seriously dehydrated, or lacking water. She couldn't stand up properly to nurse from her mother, Bibi. And her small size put her at risk of being accidentally injured by either Bibi or her father, Henry. Alone with her family, the young calf wouldn't have survived.
Fiona the hippo finds her way
Zookeepers had no choice but to takeover. Getting her back to full health became the zoo's priority. The Cincinnati Children's Hospital even helped out, putting Fiona on an IV to replace her lost fluids ("IV" stands for intravenous, a medical technique where fluid is placed directly into the body through a needle and a tube).
Throughout it all, the zoo kept their eyes on a hopeful family reunion in the future. Bibi and Henry were close enough to be able to hear and smell Fiona over a wall. And slowly, but surely, Fiona amazed her caregivers by putting on weight and getting stronger by the week. Here's a video of her in march at 33 kg (73 lbs.) learning to use a ramp to get into her pool.
(Beware: this video contains extremely cute ear wiggles!)
Over time, she was big enough to have visits with Mom during the day, and then overnight. Talk about the little hippo that could!
Six months old and feeling fine
Today, you'd never know that Fiona's beautiful life was ever in danger. She turned six months on July 24th and weighs around 180 kg (400 lbs.). On July 11, Fiona, Bibi, and Henry finally spent time together in the zoo's Hippo Cove. The reunion was everything they'd hoped for! See?
For the time being, Fiona is still in and out of Hippo Cove. Zookeepers have to be careful how they introduce her to the public exhibit and her family. She still takes breaks in between. But just knowing that she is going to make it is super exciting to us.
Congratulations, Fiona the hippo! And great job, Cincinnati Zoo.