UPDATE 2/3: Fiona continues to struggle. “Please continue to send positive vibes to Fiona and her care team,” writes zoo staff.
UPDATE 1/31: At eight-days-old, the baby hippo finally has a name: Fiona! It means “fair.” (Did you know that?)
“She still has a long way to go before she’ll be strong enough to be reunited with her mom,” said Christina Gorsuch, curator of mammals at the Cincinnati Zoo. “She needs to learn how to nurse on her own, walk, swim and get a lot bigger.”
While it’s important to be punctual, being born six weeks early is NOT good.
When the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden‘s 17-year-old hippo Bibi went into labor six weeks early, zoo staff knew her baby calf would need critical care. The baby female calf, not expected until March, couldn’t stand or nurse from her mother when she was born on January 24th.
Six days later, the calf is doing relatively well, thanks to round-the-clock care from the vets and animal care staff at the zoo.
The calf weighed about 29 pounds when she was born, about 25 pounds lighter than the lowest recorded birth weight for a hippo — they normally weigh between 55 and 120 pounds.
The zoo has released daily updates on the baby’s condition.
Bibi, the mother, was healthy after the birth. Since the baby could not feed from mom, the zoo staff had to tube feed her, mixing mom’s milk with a fluid mixture.
One of the big worries about her premature birth: Zoo staff isn’t sure how developed her muscles are. Zoo staff have spent a lot of time with the baby calf, rubbing her and attempting to stimulate her muscles and make her move. By the second day, the mostly immobile calf was treated to her first experience in water thanks to a small, plastic kiddie pool.
By Saturday, four days after her birth, the baby hippo was really showing positive signs!
“She has gained almost four pounds since birth but is still about twenty pounds under the low end of a normal birth weight for a Nile hippo,” the zoo wrote in a blog post. “She is starting to support her weight for a few seconds at a time.”
With that said, the baby calf still does not have an easy road ahead of her. She was standing for longer lengths of time in the kiddie pool by Sunday, but was still struggling with bottle feeding.
As of Monday, her glucose levels were low and Ph levels were off. Her weight gain also stopped.
But considering the staff’s dedication to caring for the calf, along with the calf’s clear desire to keep growing, there’s little doubt that she will one day be healthy and happy. Even if the road to “happy and healthy” is rough. We believe in you, baby hippo!