Fiona was born six weeks premature on January 24 and was unable to stand and nurse from her mother, Bibi. After Bibi ignored her tiny baby, keepers decided to care for the baby in the zoo’s nursery. Under the expert care of the zoo’s staff, Fiona has grown from a mere 29 pounds (less than half the normal weight for a Hippo calf) to more than 100 pounds today.
The zoo’s nursery staff has helped Fiona overcome several health hurdles, including underdeveloped lungs, finding the right milk formula for her, regulating her body temperature, and keeping her hydrated. No other zoo has raised a premature baby Hippo before.
Fiona has learned to walk, including up a ramp leading into her exercise pool. She has learned to swim and exhibits all the normal behaviors of a Hippo.
Keepers hope to reunite Fiona with Bibi and Henry, Fiona’s father. Bibi and Fiona were separated during the normal bonding time between mother and calf, so it is unlikely that Bibi will recognize Fiona as her offspring. However, the staff expects Bibi and Henry to welcome Fiona into the bloat just as they would any other new Hippo.
Eventually, Fiona will become too large to be cared for in a hands-on manner by keepers. For now, Fiona and her parents can see and hear each other, but they are separated by a protective barrier. The staff will begin working to transition Fiona to the bloat so she can become a well-adjusted Hippo.