Cincinnati Zoo's premature hippo Fiona takes first steps

CINCINNATI - A milestone for any child, Fiona, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden's premature hippo, took her first steps overnight, zoo officials announced Sunday.

Fiona, as she was named Tuesday by zoo staff, was active Saturday night into Sunday morning and took her first jaunt. Fiona has been receiving care from zoo vets since she was born Tuesday morning to parents Bibi and Henry six weeks early.

Though Fiona continues to reach milestones, she is still fed video tube by staff and subject to continuous wellness checks. Zoo officials in a Sunday afternoon blog post asked the public to "keep the positive vibes coming."

Staff picked the name Fiona because it means "fair."

“Even though Fiona’s not out of the woods yet, every baby needs a name and her animal care team thought the name was a perfect fit for their 'fair' little girl,” Christina Gorsuch, curator of mammals at the Cincinnati Zoo, said in a news release. “They have been with her 24 hours a day and think this name suits her personality.”

Gorsuch said Fiona still has "a long way to go" before she can be reunited with her mom, Bibi. She has to be able to nurse on her own, walk and get considerably bigger. Fiona weighed just 29 pounds at birth, much lower than the range of recorded birth weights for her species, which is 55-120 pounds.

Bibi, a 17-year-old hippo, gave birth to the first Nile hippo born at the Cincinnati facility in 75 years.

Even though Fiona she can't nurse yet, she's still getting nutrients from her mother's milk. Bibi learned how to lean in and stay still for the weekly ultrasounds zoo staff gave her throughout her pregnancy. That conditioning means she's comfortable walking into a chute and letting staffers collect her milk for her calf. (The baby also gets formula to supplement her diet.)

And Bibi's milk has another use. Some of it will be analyzed and added to the Smithsonian’s Milk Repository, giving insight as to how the nutrient content in hippos' milk changes over time.

“Since we are able to get daily samples of Bibi’s milk, we have a rare opportunity to learn more about specific changes in this species,” zoo nutritionist Barbara Henry said in a news release.

The zoo will post updates about the baby's condition on its Facebook page.

USA TODAY Network


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