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Science and the Environment

UPDATE: Zoo Staff Still Working Around the Clock to Help Henry the Hippo's Baby Gain Strength

1/31/17:  Henry's baby has a name.  It's Fiona (which means "fair"), given to her by Cincinnati zoo staff who have been caring for her around the clock since she was born six weeks early on January 24.  

“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,” said Christina Gorsuch, curator of mammals at the Cincinnati Zoo. “They have been with her 24 hours a day and think this name suits her personality.”

The calf  has been receiving critical care from zoo staff since vets determined that she was too weak to stand to nurse from mom, seventeen-year-old Bibi. She is being cared for in close proximity to her parents so they can hear and smell each other.

“She still has a long way to go before she’ll be strong enough to be reunited with her mom,” said Gorsuch.  “She needs to learn how to nurse on her own, walk, swim and get a lot bigger.”

1/30/17:  An update from the Cincinnati Zoo:    "The fight to nurse our premature baby hippo to health continues.  At this morning’s AM wellness check the zoo veterinarians found that the hippo baby’s glucose levels were low and her Ph levels were off. They have inserted an IV for fluids, dextrose, and supportive supplements as needed to get numbers up to where they should be. She has been gaining weight steadily since she was born, on January 24, but did not gain any weight since yesterday. It is not uncommon for premature babies to experience difficulty with digestion and  regulating their metabolism. The animal care staff is adjusting her formula and supplements in order to aid with digestion. Her care team continues to work around the clock to help her stabilize and gain strength."

1/29/17:  According to the Cincinnati Zoo, the baby "hippo got lots of sound sleep last night and was doing well in the pool this (Sunday) morning. Her care team has been supporting her with pool noodles in the water to help with balance. She was able to stand without the noodles, holding her own weight, and even dipped her face under water and blew bubbles. The six-week premature calf is still struggling with bottle feeding but has started to suckle a bit."

1/26/17:  Here's the latest from the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden on Henry and Bibi's baby:  "Our two-day-old baby hippo, born six week early, is hanging in there.  Her care team continues to give her 24-hour attention, which includes tube-feedings, vet checks and keeping her warm and moist.  She is gaining some strength.  This morning she got her first pool experience.  Most hippos are born in the water, but they can’t actually swim. Pool time will help her build muscles and balance and maintain an optimal body temperature of 96-98 degrees."

1/25/17:  Henry the Hippo's daughter is holding her own after being born prematurely Tuesday.  According to the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden on Wednesday,  the baby "remained stable overnight and is receiving around-the-clock intensive care from Zoo vets and animal care staff. Her mom, Bibi, is doing fine and, because of her experience standing still for ultrasounds, is allowing milk to be collected. Vets are adding mom’s milk to a fluid mixture that is being tube-fed to the baby. She is still too weak to stand but the nutrients she’s receiving should help her gain strength."

Original Story:  Henry the Hippo, who used to call Dickerson Park Zoo home, has a new calf.  His companion, Bibi, at his new home—the Cincinnati Zoo—had a baby Tuesday.  But it’s not all good news.  The Nile hippo calf arrived prematurely, and zoo staff are working around the clock to care for it.

The female calf wasn’t expected until March.  At 29 pounds, the baby is about 25 pounds lighter than the lowest recorded birth weight for this species.

The calf wasn’t able to walk and nurse from her mom.  Christina Gorsuch, curator of mammals at the Cincinnati Zoo, says staff members are giving her fluids and keeping her moist and warm.  She says, since the baby hippo’s system is underdeveloped, getting her to a healthy weight “will be a challenge.”

According to Gorsuch, the hippo’s heart and lungs sound good and she is pretty responsive to stimuli, but staff aren’t sure how developed her muscles and brain are.

The baby’s birth is the first birth of a Nile hippo at the Cincinnati Zoo in 75 years.

The zoo will provide updates on the baby's condition here.