Fiona the hippo, one of Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden's most beloved fixtures (and a national icon, to boot), will soon no longer be an only child.
The Cincinnati Zoo announced the big news Monday morning, sharing that 23-year-old hippo Bibi, Fiona's mother, is due to give birth to another baby hippo this summer.
On April 10, which happens to be National Siblings Day, the Zoo teased Cincinnatians with a few cryptic social media posts, sharing a post with an ultrasound image that suggested the impending addition of a new zoo baby. "Happy National Siblings Day!" the Zoo captioned the Facebook post.
Given the implication of this baby being a sibling, a lot of social media commenters immediately jumped to the conclusion that Fiona the hippo would soon be getting a brother or sister. After all, her mother Bibi was introduced to her new boyfriend, Tucker the 4,500-pound hippo, last year.
The Zoo made another cryptic post Monday morning, sharing an image consisting of a pile of watermelons (famously one of Fiona's favorite foods) with the caption “We're gonna need more watermelon!”
The hippo hypothesis was proven correct as Zoo officials shared that Bibi was having a baby.
“The hippo team is excited and also nervous,” said the Zoo’s Africa team manager Eric Byrd. “As most people know, Bibi’s first baby, Fiona, was born six weeks premature and wouldn’t have survived without the intervention of her human caregivers. We are hoping for a full-term pregnancy and will be doing everything we can to support Bibi.”
Keepers will be keeping a close eye on Bibi over the coming months, officials say. Specialists with the Zoo’s Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) are caring for her with hormone supplements and frequent ultrasounds.
Bibi was introduced to Tucker on the recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) cooperatively managed Species Survival Plan (SSP) Program which focuses on “health and genetic diversity in the hippo population in North American zoos" per a release.
The zoo’s director of animal care, Christina Gorsuch, said that this baby was a bit of a surprise as Bibi was on birth control.
“We weren’t planning to welcome a baby this soon, but nature found a way and ignored our calendar,” said Gorsuch. “Most forms of contraception, in hippos or humans, is not 100% reliable. The dose that was previously effective for Bibi did not prevent pregnancy this time.”
More baby animals will soon be making their debut in May. Every year, the Cincinnati Zoo unveils its newcomers throughout the month of May in a series called Zoo Babies. In years past, Zoo babies like bonobo Amali, Zip the baby wallaby, Theo and Fenn the baby giraffes, Lucas the red panda and more have stolen the hearts of Cincinnatians.
The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is located at 3400 Vine St., Avondale. Tickets and more info: cincinnatizoo.org.