CINCINNATI– Fiona, the adorable hippopotamus who was born six weeks early, quickly captured the hearts of animal lovers around the globe. But her parents took a little longer.
Fiona was born at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens on Jan. 24. At the time, she was 25 pounds too small. A team of keepers carefully raised the baby hippo by hand, feeding her bottles and helping her into her kiddie pool.
Recently, the care team started introducing the cute little girl to her mother, Bibi. According to the zoo, Bibi may not know that Fiona is her baby, but she has showed patience and attentiveness to her.
A bigger challenge awaited the little hippo with a big personality: establishing a relationship with her dad, Henry. The 36-year-old father was clearly not comfortable sharing an indoor space with Fiona at first.
The care team took a leap of faith and allowed all three hippos to interact in the outdoor habitat.
“We hoped that Bibi’s now well-established bond with Fiona would serve as a model for Henry. Perhaps if Henry observed how Fiona and Bibi interacted with each other, he might change his behavior appropriately to match. Additionally, we felt confident that Bibi’s protective instincts would kick in and she would intervene and defend Fiona if Henry were to get too pushy or aggressive with the baby,” the Cincinnati Zoo said in a blog post on Tuesday.
The first two days didn’t go well. Despite Bibi’s attempts to protect little Fiona, Henry didn’t get it. He would swing his mouth at the baby hippo and press her against the wall. He even wrapped his mouth around her and squeezed. Fiona wasn’t hurt. In fact, she wasn’t phased and kept going back for more.
Day 3 changed everything.
“From the moment they greeted each other that morning, Henry seemed much more at ease and relaxed around Fiona. Instead of trying to discourage her interactions, Henry finally seemed to embrace them!” the zoo said.
The dad and daughter duo made enough progress that Bibi was able to relax, which was also a huge relief to the hippo keepers.
“Ever since that morning, all three hippos have been doing amazing together and spending increasing amounts of time as a bloat. They’ve quickly settled into a comfortable routine with each other, napping through most of the day and waking up in the afternoons for their snacks,” according to the zoo.
With mom and dad by her side, Fiona is well on her way to learning how to be a hippo.