In January, the Cincinnati Zoo confirmed the pregnancy of its 17-year-old Nile Hippopotamus, Bibi, via the world’s first ultrasound image of a hippo fetus. Evidently, bribing a 3,000-pound hippo to stand still while you press a wand all over her belly is about as easy as convincing my toddler to eat peas.
A normal hippo pregnancy is approximately 8 months, so Bibi’s due date was sometime in March. Unfortunately, in late January she unexpectedly went into labor, giving birth to baby Fiona six weeks early.
The zoo has done a fantastic job of keeping the public up-to-date on Fiona’s condition, as well as letting us have a behind-the-scenes look at caring for a critically premature baby hippo. Fiona’s birth weight was 29 pounds — around 25 pounds below what is currently known to be the lowest birth weight for a Nile Hippo.
As any parent of a preemie can attest, the tiny size may be adorable, but it is also very dangerous. The zoo’s Facebook updates have been interesting to watch through the lens of a preemie mom. So much of what they are doing is giving me flashbacks to my son’s six-week hospital stay. They are keeping Fiona warm and moist, checking her vitals and bloodwork regularly.
They are even able to give Fiona breastmilk! Because of her training to stand still for ultrasounds, Bibi is being tolerant of twice-daily milkings so that her baby can get as many nutrients as possible.
I can definitely relate to the “one step forward, two steps back” feeling the updates bring. She has dealt with feeding difficulties, oxygen issues, and low glucose. Though the adage to “never trust a preemie” holds strong, she is stable and things seem to be improving overall, according to the most recent updates.
Zoo officials are clearly smitten and posting as many pictures as any proud new parents. Definitely check out their website and Facebook for the sweet photos of Fiona and her zoo family.
We will be keeping baby Fiona in our thoughts and I know I will be checking in frequently for updates. Grow, baby, grow!