After almost 6 long months of working tirelessly towards a full family reunion for our hippos, we are ecstatic to announce that Fiona has finally been successfully reintroduced to both of her parents and we now have a happy little bloat of three!
If you’ve been keeping up with Fiona’s story through the blogs, you know that a couple weeks ago we hit a bit of a wall during reintroductions with Fiona’s dad, Henry. At almost 36 years old, it had been more than 20 years since Henry had last interacted with a baby hippo, and unlike Bibi, who embraced Fiona immediately, Henry was having a hard time feeling comfortable around Fiona. The two were making very little forward progress with their relationship, and though Henry had never made any outright attempts to hurt Fiona, it was apparent to the care staff that he was not comfortable sharing space with the baby hippo indoors and he seemed really unsure of how to interact with her.
After weighing all of the potential risks and benefits of the situation, we decided to try an introduction with all 3 hippos in the outdoor habitat. The hope was that the larger space would give both Henry and Fiona ample room to move away from each other if either was feeling uncomfortable or unsure. Additionally, we hoped that Bibi’s now well-established bond with Fiona would serve as a model for Henry. Perhaps if Henry observed how Fiona and Bibi interacted with each other, he might change his behavior appropriately to match. Additionally, we felt confident that Bibi’s protective instincts would kick in and she would intervene and defend Fiona if Henry were to get too pushy or aggressive with the baby.
With several members of the care team supervising and ready to intervene, we opened the doors, let the hippos outside and held our breath. Fortunately for all involved, Bibi made it immediately apparent that she would be playing the role of both coach and referee during the outdoor introductions. She stayed close to Fiona and Henry at all times and did her best to correct Henry if and when his behavior towards Fiona became too aggressive or inappropriate. Most of our care team were shocked to see that the majority of Henry’s attention was focused on Fiona. As we’ve mentioned in earlier posts, Henry has grown quite attached to Bibi. However, during the introductions on habitat, Henry’s focus was almost entirely on Fiona.
In a surprising reversal of roles, Bibi was the one following Henry around the habitat as he and Fiona did their best to establish some sort of understanding and relationship between themselves. The first day of the introductions, Henry continued to interact inappropriately with Fiona, earning himself several admonishments from Bibi whenever he would swing an open mouth at Fiona or attempt to press her against a wall with his massive body. The scariest behavior to observe was when Henry would wrap his huge mouth around Fiona’s little body and give her a squeeze. This behavior thankfully only occurred once or twice and was never severe enough to cause any injury to Fiona. Each time Fiona would squirm away from him and, seemingly undiscouraged, return for more interaction.
Equally frustrating at times was Fiona’s resolute refusal to leave Henry alone. From our perspective, it seemed as though Henry was doing everything in his power to communicate to Fiona that he wanted space. Whenever Henry would attempt to ward off Fiona, she would simply turn her backend towards him and sit down, a baby hippo’s way of showing submission. But after her submissive demonstrations, instead of moving away from Henry or letting him leave, Fiona persisted, adamant to interact with him and win over the one being on the planet who had not yet fallen in love with her. In spite of all their prior altercations, no amount of negative interaction seemed to discourage Fiona, and perhaps because Bibi was nearby to serve as protector, she continued to test her boundaries with Henry.
Not wanting to push Henry beyond his limits, the care team decided to end the first round of full introductions on habitat after only one hour. The next day, we repeated the process and all 3 hippos spent about 2 hours in the habitat together. As with the day before, we saw much of the same behavior: Fiona trying to force a relationship and Henry hesitant, uncomfortable and unsure. Day 3 was when the real magic happened and everything finally seemed to click for the father and daughter pair. From the moment they greeted each other that morning, Henry seemed much more at ease and relaxed around Fiona. Instead of trying to discourage her interactions, Henry finally seemed to embrace them! He laid in a calm and relaxed position in the water with his belly exposed and his mouth held open wide for Fiona to investigate.
Fiona being playful with her Dad. Hippos use their mouths to play, show affection, give warnings, and explore their world. pic.twitter.com/VCyVTHlMSa
— Cincinnati Zoo (@CincinnatiZoo) July 16, 2017
Fiona eagerly explored every square inch of Henry’s giant mouth. She examined his tusks and suckled on his great big jowls, and at one point she even grabbed his massive tongue with her little mouth and attempted to pull it out! It was hilariously cartoonish to observe, but even more important was Henry’s calm and accepting response. He rested in the water, totally relaxed, his eyelids growing heavier and heavier, and he seemed to thoroughly be enjoying his mouth massage. He patiently allowed Fiona to lick, bite, poke and prod to her heart’s content. And even more encouraging was Bibi’s behavior that morning. Bibi, who had become a sort of barometer for Henry and Fiona’s interactions, rested in the water several feet away, dozing off and obviously comfortable enough with Henry’s conduct to finally let her guard down. Seeing Bibi this relaxed in the presence of both Henry and Fiona gave the entire team a huge sense of relief.
Ever since that morning, all 3 hippos have been doing amazing together and spending increasing amounts of time as a bloat. They’ve quickly settled into a comfortable routine with each other, napping through most of the day and waking up in the afternoons for their snacks (and Fiona’s 2pm bottle) and then spending the late afternoons and early evenings exploring their habitat and playing with each other in the pool. When they sleep together during the day, all 3 hippos huddle close together, maintaining contact with each other, just like a bloat in the wild would do. Bibi continues to show an incredible amount of patience with Fiona and serves as an excellent role model for her, showing Fiona all of the ins and outs of being a real hippo. And Henry’s patience with his tiny new bloat-mate grows day by day as he finally seems to be embracing her presence. At this point, our 3 hippos are spending more and more time together on habitat, but there is still no set schedule or guarantees that guests will see Fiona during their visit. (But I can tell you the odds are definitely better towards the very end of the day!)
After so many difficult days and especially with the rough start Fiona had, there were many times when this end result felt like an unobtainable goal. But with each health hurdle overcome and each milestone reached, our team grew more and more confident imagining a future where Fiona would thrive as a happy, healthy and well-adjusted little hippo, bonded with both of her parents. It feels absolutely amazing to be able to say that our sweet little Fiona has finally made it to this place. In spite of the many, many hardships Fiona has had to overcome in her little life, her fighting spirit and incredible will has helped her to prevail time and again. And in a world where there seem to be so many insurmountable problems, Fiona’s story serves as a reminder to us all that humans are capable of some truly amazing things if we work together and dare to believe.
As always, we thank you so very much for your continued love and support for Fiona and her care team, and we will keep you posted! #TeamFiona!
94 thoughts on “Hippo Blog #9: Bloat of 3, Finally!”
Been following since the beginning. Cincinnati Zoo staff, you are so wonderful and to be commended. Thanks for sharing this awesome joyful blog with us. I cry, smile, and laugh (some times reading one entry) through this truly love story. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!!
I have enjoyed every step of this journey with Fiona because of the wonderful honesty and transparency of the Cincinnati Zoo Fiona care team. Your Zoo could have become more closed and careful after the public outcry from the unfortunate incident with Harambre. But you didn’t. You openly shared all the ups and downs of Fiona’ s journey without hesitation. What a gift to all of us regular folks who now have a wonderfully better understanding of the lives and the love of this awesome hippo family. Thank you for all you do!
Just when we needed something to put smiles on our faces..along came Fiona! Many thanks to #Team Fiona for keeping a smile on my face almost daily. I post a Fiona Fix every time you all have shared..please continue this. I am in Ky and am coming to the Zoo soon and will stop to see you know who for sure..thank you for the love and care you have shared with the world.❤️
Fiona’s relentless pursuit of her dad’s acceptance is so cute and heartwarming. I am so in love with Fiona & her parents Bibi & Henry. Thank you so much for the updates.
I have so enjoyed watching Fiona grow and play. It has brought some peacefulness to my hectic day and also some big smiles. Thank you for sharing
I post the FIONA FIX daily and she simply makes me happy!
Fiona’s story is such an incredible one – I love seeing the updates and pictures – it really brightens my day. Thanks to all of the docs and caregivers. – you have done one amazing job!
Go Fiona Go! Nothing will stop you. I am the envy of my friends because I saw you last week. I will be back soon! I was a little saddened today when I went to get my fix and the button on the website to check on her was gone! Please don’t take that away!
Love your blogs and this wonderful success story!!! Is Bibi nursing Fiona yet?
Bibi won’t ever nurse Fiona. She doesn’t realize Fiona is HER baby. She just realizes Fiona is A baby. Fiona gets fed by bottles and from her care team.
A true blessing! Superb work, Team Fiona!
Wonderful! I’m glad Henry’s attitude and willingness to accept Fiona has shifted and they’re a happy bloat of three now. The video of them napping together is so much cute, it should come with an Extreme Cuteness warning. I love the term ‘bloat’ for a group of hippos, by the way. Whoever came up with it has a great sense of humor. 😉
I have followed Fiona and her amazing story from the beginning! Team Fiona and the Cincinnati Zoo staff have done an outstanding job with Fiona’s progress and in reuniting the Hippo family! You all deserve special recognition! Thank you so much for always taking the time to give us Fiona fans updates! You make us all smile! ❤❤
I have followed Fiona from the beginning and have marveled at the care given to this little one, and your awesome updates. The photos have been beyond cute! I have learned so much about these giants through your informative posts. But the ultimate is that you were able to reunite this family successfully! With all of her care delivered by humans without any opportunity for BiBi to bond with Fiona, I just didn’t think that it could happen. Thank you so much for your persistence and for sharing the journey with us!
I’m from springfield mo..we housed henry for many many years..was such a treat to see him at our zoo..would love to see his daughter she just looks so sweet
I love watching Fiona and her mum and dad every day but I have a friend who has brought us all to Team Fiona, she is a recently widowed wonderful woman who all her friends love and admire…She adores Fiona and each and every day since her birth has posted up dates for all of us to see, it’s the one thing that brings her real happiness orher than her loving family…I would love it if you could email or message her to let her know how much you appreciate her caring so much for Fiona…
My life has been so much more enriched by the unwavering love time and patience Fiona’s care team has given her. Fiona has stretched my already big heart to a feeling of pure largeness. Someday I hope to see this wonderful caring loving family that somehow knew each other through it all
Nature is beautiful❤️ I love this family!!!
Just beautiful!!! Thank you all for your superb care!
I got tears in my eyes that Henry let her explore his mouth!!
I have been sharing all the blogs and posts regarding Fiona with a giraffe group of 24000! The group is UKbased and has members from all of our states and the world. They have loved all that has been shared and have fallen in love with Fiona ad well.
Your patience with Fiona, Bibi & Henry is truly amazing. I have watched from the beginning & the lessons learned about these magnificent animals has been wonderful. This reunion would never happened it wasn’t for the care of the awesome staff at Cincinnati Zoo. Good job all!
You guys are such a super duper team that cares so much for this family! I’m amazed every day with your knowledge and decisions ! Thank you , thank you for sharing Fiona’s Journey with the World!
Beth Phillips, Malin , OR❤️
I too have followed Fiona’ s miracle since your 1st posting. I love all the updates and the antics that the 3 adorable sweet Hippos do everyday truly makes me laugh out loud and warm my heart
Thank you team Fiona for all your love and devotion to this fabulous baby Fiona and her parents. You all should be commended for your hard work and the miracles you have done to bring Fiona,Bibi, and Henry together as a family.
Keep blogging it makes my day!
Love Fiona! And the wonderful job you folks at the zoo are doing!!! Keep up the great work. I love the continuing updates.
It would have been so easy to give up and just keep them apart when Henry squeezed poor baby Fiona. But instead you persevered and now look…..they are a family. Thank you for keeping Henry’s inappropriate behavior away from us. We did NOT need to worry about that! I am so amazed by this whole story. What an amazing job you have done.
Amen to that! I was also a little worried when I heard he had put his big chompers around her. As a regular follower, I appreciate your trust in Henry and saving us from this level of worry.
Dedicated caring people working hard to bring about a miracle. There’s a moral to that story that I would hope folks would understand.
Well done, Cincy zoo staff–well done/
Thank you all so very much for taking care of this beautiful family and congratulations to YOU! It wouldn’t have had the same outcome without your support and caring #TeamFiona! xoxo
Will you be able to keep all three hippos? I can’t imagine separating them now! I’m from Springfield, MO, which is where Henry came from…it was such a relief to see him finally have a mate and not be alone anymore!
Thank you, team. …love that little Fiona bunches! …and you, also, for making all this possible!
I absolutely love the updates! I would have never thought that I would fall in love with a hippo but I have and I look forward to all of the pictures, updates, and blogs for this hippo bloat! Thank you for sharing!!
What an amazing story…one I’ve been following since the day Fiona emerged into this world. I cannot say enough how inspiring the care team are…absolute geniuses, passionate carers, & amazing role models for anyone who cares about the planet & all its diverse inhabitants. Thank you, thank you, thank you to Fiona’s care team & for this blog that shared her story. A real bit of bright sunshine & happiness in an often dark world.
Nothing makes me prouder of my hometown than the Cincinnati Zoo. A jewel in the crown of the Queen City.
Thank you to the cincinnati zoo for letting everone see the beautiful things God has givin to us my cousin moved to LA YEARS ago but she knows all about everyones pride and goy . Thanks again
This is a miracle. What you all did is nothing short of miraculous.
Am so glad our Miss Fiona has been successfully integrated into her bloat. At the same time I miss the videos of her hanging with her humans. I assume there are no longer reasons for the care staff to go into the pools with her. But she still receives bottles and food, and I hope pets and snuggles. Any chance of some new videos of Fiona with her care team? Also hoping you can explain her feet…are her toes webbed? Do the nails ever need trimming? Never much thought of their feet before, but seeing all the videos of Fiona swimming…her feet are kinda cool. Thanks.
1/24/2017. A day to go down in history. This Hippo was meant to make starting with her birth. Maybe Bibi knew she was early and had her on land opposite the water in which would have been nothing short of A heart breaking situation.Thanks to the Humans at the Zoo and Public you now have a Happy Healthy Hippo named Fiona. Love that Fiona thank you for letting me and all others have the daily Joy of watching Fiona grow in to this sweet Hippo with Henry &Bibi.
I live in Cincinnati and have found so much joy in the life of Fiona and her spirit. As a parent of a severely disabled little girl who fights everyday against odds no one should bear I find inspiration in Fiona and from the care team to continue my work as you have continued yours. When I need something to make me smile, I go digging looking for Fiona. I’ve looked at pics, watched the videos, or read the blogs countless times to help bring some joy to my days. I never knew I could love a baby hippo so much. Thank you for all you’ve done, for your candid accounts of the journey, and for simply being great!!❤❤❤
Another happy milestone! Fantastic job Cincinnati Zoo and Team Fiona!
Congratulations to Team Fiona. A real joy to see them all together. Thank you for all your efforts. Fiona is such a cutie patootie.
I follow and enjoy your daily updates. Congratulations to the entire care team on such a huge success. It must be so gratifying, when you watch that little baby today, to know that you were part of it. I hope I get to visit and see the family in person one day.
Do hippos make any sound at all?
Who knew I would fall in love with a baby hippo, wow! I just love all the updates, videos, blogs, news articles and anything I can get my hands on to look at my adorable little girl. I feel some times as if Fiona is mine, I know that sounds really silly. I am grateful to God and the entire staff of the Cincinnati Zoo and the nurse and doctors from other facilities for keeping this darling alive and bringing her through to be the thriving baby girl she is today. She brings us so much joy and I pray that you all keep up the great work! I love seeing Fiona, Bibi and Henry, they are so sweet (HeBiFi, LOL)
Can`t know enough about hippos now I know they make a sound WHAT IS IT!!!!!like a humpback singing (boy) or uninquik to a hippo can we pls pls hear it btw will never know enough `bout Hippos simply just luv them sooooooo much. Hows Henry thoughts and prayers 4 poppa Hippo just another hippofreak not just this bloat I live in LALALand soI have Rosie as a guide 4 fifi`s development