The Cincinnati Zoo's prematurely born hippopotamus Fiona beats the odds at 3 months old

Posted at 8:00 AM, Apr 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-24 09:03:46-04

Watch WCPO staffers share their favorite Fiona moments in the video player above.

CINCINNATI -- The world’s favorite prematurely born hippopotamus turns three months old on Monday, marking an occasion nobody was sure Fiona would reach when born six weeks early on Jan. 24.

The early days of cuddling the tiny, fragile hippo are long gone, according to Jenna Wingate, the Cincinnati Zoo’s Africa Keeper.

“There’s a big difference just in her energy and she’s much stronger and healthier now, so there was a lot of worry and she would kind of lie there and wouldn’t do a whole lot,” Wingate said. “She’s too big and a little bit dangerous to actually cuddle and snuggle, but she does like to lie on our feet or use our leg as a pillow now.”

GALLERY: The adorable Fiona photos you have to see

Zookeepers have started introducing little Fiona to her parents, Bibi and Henry, but Wingate said there's not much interaction just yet. Bibi takes deep sniffs near Fiona and eats hay next to her calf, but Henry hasn’t shown much interest.

"Fiona is very interested in him and especially his smells and his stool. For whatever reason she’s very interested,” Wingate said.

Apparently, male hippopotamuses mark territory by slinging feces around with their tails in what Wingate called a “dung shower.”

"Fiona is now getting access to that, and she shows quite an interest in it for whatever reason,” Wingate said.

The goal is to have Fiona out in view of the public by June, but that depends on whether she has any issues with the deeper water in the adult habitat.

She’s currently consuming about two liters of formula five times a day. Zookeepers introduced grain to her diet this weekend and started training her to associate feeding time with a clicker that they can use when she’s 600 pounds and too dangerous to approach.

“She’s very sassy. She’s very feisty. If she doesn’t want to do something, you’re not going to make her,” Wingate said. "We kind of act like she’s a toddler, and if she doesn’t want to come, we’re like, ‘Bye, Fiona!’ We’ll pretend we’re walking away and she’ll be like, ‘Wait, I want to be with you guys!' and then she’ll come with us. She has her very big, very own personality already.”

Wingate thinks Fiona has captured the public’s fancy with her underdog story about thriving despite having the odds stacked against her.

"She’s incredibly adorable (and) that helps with everything,” Wingate said. "You don’t get to see many or any hand-raised hippos, so it’s unique in that sense alone, but no, we were not expecting this. It makes us really happy to know that one animal can make so many people happy and so excited and interested.”