CINCINNATI -- Staff at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden are providing critical care for a premature hippo calf born six weeks early Tuesday morning.
The female calf was the first hippo born at the zoo in 75 years, the zoo said in a news release.
Mother hippo Bibi, 17, wasn't expected to give birth until March. The calf was not able to stand to nurse from her mom, so zoo staff have been giving her fluids and keeping her moist and warm, Christina Gorsuch, curator of mammals at the zoo, said.
"Her little system is underdeveloped, and getting her to a healthy weight will be a challenge," Gorsuch said. "Vets and animal staff are doing everything they can to get her through this critical time."
The calf weights 29 pounds, about 25 pounds lighter than the lowest recorded birth weight for the species, according to the zoo. The normal range is between 55 and 120 pounds.
"She looks like a normal calf but is very, very small," Gorsuch said. "Her heart and lungs sound good and she is pretty responsive to stimuli, but we aren't sure how developed her muscles and brain are."
Zoo staff got milk from Bibi when she began showing signs of labor. They're hoping to get the baby to drink the milk and other supplements from a bottle.
They will provide round-the-clock care for the calf in close proximity to Bibi and father hippo Henry, according to the zoo. They don't know how long it will take to get the premature calf on her feet.