Baby Fiona arrived six weeks early, but the tiny Nile hippo is making great strides at the Cincinnati Zoo.
The premature baby hippo was born Jan. 24, wasn’t expected to come until March, and has a tough road ahead.
“We are giving her fluids and keeping her moist and warm,” Christina Gorsuch, curator of mammals at the Cincinnati Zoo said in a statement. “Her little system is underdeveloped, and getting her to a healthy weight will be a challenge. Vets and animal staff are doing everything they can to get her through this critical time.”
Fiona has around-the-clock care. Her mother, 17-year-old Bibi, was even allowing keepers to collect milk right away.
So keepers can bottle feed Fiona.
The baby weighed in at 29 pounds, which is about 25 pounds lighter than the lowest recorded birth weight for this species. But she has been gaining weight and is now nearing 40 pounds.
“She looks like a normal calf but is very, very small. Her heart and lungs sound good and she is pretty responsive to stimuli, but we aren’t sure how developed her muscles and brain are,” Gorsuch added.
She is already taking her first shaky steps.
And, she is getting exercise to get stronger as well as supplemental oxygen for her preemie lungs.
Fiona is being cared for near her mother and father, Henry, a 35-year-old hippo. Neither have actually interacted with the calf.
“The team is not sure how long it will take to get the premature calf on her feet,” Gorsuch explained. “That developmental milestone must be reached before she can be reunited with Bibi.”
Fiona is the first Nile hippo born at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens in 75 years. And Fiona made history even before she was born. Zoo scientists captured the first ever ultrasound image of a Nile hippo fetus earlier in January.
We’re all pulling for her.