CINCINNATI - Baby hippo Fiona's long-awaited full family reunion took place without a hitch at the Cincinnati Zoo Tuesday morning.
It was a joyful occasion for baby and parents when dad Henry joined Fiona and mom Bibi in splashing and swimming in the zoo's Hippo Cove.
“The introduction lasted about an hour, and we couldn’t be more pleased with how it went,” said Christina Gorsuch, curator of mammals. “Fiona has been exploring the outdoor habitat with her mom for several weeks and has had contact with Henry inside, but today was the first time that the three hippos have been together.
"Bibi was protective of Fiona and gave Henry cues about how to interact appropriately with the little one.”
Dad and daughter bonded the way hippos do - with Henry opening his mouth wide and Fiona sticking her head inside and exploring.
Family introductions will continue and the hippo care team, encouraged by what they saw Tuesday, hopes to increase the trio’s time together, the zoo said in a release.
There is still no set schedule for when Fiona will be outside, so visitors may or may not see her, the zoo said.
Fiona has made remarkable progress since her premature birth on Jan. 24. She weighed just 29 pounds - about 25 pounds lighter than the lowest recorded hippo birth. The normal range is 55-120 pounds.
Fiona now weighs almost 375 pounds. Her parents weigh about 10 times as much.
Over half a year, zoo staff has carefully nursed Fiona to health and nurtured her relationship with her parents -first with her mom, which went swimmingly, and now with her dad, which went cautiously.
“It has taken almost six months to reach this major milestone, and it feels great,” said Gorsuch. “There’s no manual on how to hand raise and reintroduce a premature hippo, but our animal care staff got Fiona through health hurdles and overcame curveballs to get us where we are now.
"I’m proud of our team.”