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!”
I have been following Fiona’s story since her birth and I cannot tell you how happy I am to hear Fiona has been reunited with her parents! I have chronicled her progress on my screen saver at work. It has frequently changed to show Miss Fiona’s progress. I am currently displaying a proud picture of the newly formed bloat. Your entire staff should be very proud of themselves!! I am indebted to you for all you did for our girl. Thank you!
Truly amazing – seriously crying at how this story has evolved. The world loves that Baby Girl!
I am beyond happy that BifiHen are all together again! They make such a wonderful bloat. I too have been following online and am in awe and appreciative of the Fiona CareTeam. Those of us who are nowhere near to even hope to see this bloat in person have been totally, totally amazed and happy for all the tenderness, attention is given to not only Fiona’s thriving but also to Fiona returning to her mother and father. The trio is beautiful!
I too am moved to tears of joy to read about the success of how the 3 hippos formed their bloat. I have followed the Fiona story since early on & am in awe of the commitment made by the human caregivers. All are to be congratulated and are an example for all of us regarding how we relate to the animal kingdom. Thanks for sharing this journey.
A great accomplishment! Animals and people are so resilient. Thanks to all our Cincinnati Zoo heroes and heroines!
What an amazing job you have all done, in first saving this sweet baby girl, and then reuniting this hippo family. I volunteer at The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and see their professional trainers and techs, rescuing, rehabbing and then hopefully releasing Dolphins, Pygmy Killer Whales and Sea Turtles. Thanks for sharing all your hard work and joyous moments! I’m so glad I have family in West Chester so I can come see Fiona & Family soon!
We love IMMS! We live in BSL now, but we’re originally from the Cincy area. We haven’t been up that way since Fiona has been born, but can’t wait to get up there to visit our son, who goes to University of Cincinnati, and Fiona!
I’m truly so grateful that you take the time to write these blogs, post pic and videos of Fiona (family too!) and keep all of her adoring fans in the loop <3 She is the sweetest! I'm so proud of you all!
Fiona is moving on with her life and I feel like an empty-nester, just sitting on the sidelines! Cudos to Team Fiona and the magnificent job you’ve done with this little hippo! If this is the high point of your hippo career, you can be proud of yourself and the education you’ve provided those of us watching Fiona grow. The Cincy Zoo hippo blog/Instagram/Facebook provided a smile during busy work days!
I have followed lovely Fiona from her very trepidatious start. I have been thrilled with each goal met and in prayer for her and #Team Fiona the entire time. What a sweet moment this is to see her cared for and accepted by her own family! I know it must be so bittersweet to see her move from humans to hippos, but well-done in launching her to be who she is meant to be. She has always been a genuinely special hippo to watch, and her family is equally so. My hope is to see them in person one day soon.
What seemed so impossible at first is reality now, thanks to your skilled and patient staff. It has been a miraculous story! What joy this baby has brought to the zoo and to all animal lovers who have been following the story!
Mazel Tov, Wendy and all of you hard-working, patient, ever-researching, persevering staff members!
I never would have thought a hippo could be so adorable, and it has been through your loving dedication to her care that I’ve fallen under Fiona’s spell. To say, “Thank you” to the staff who has cared for her just doesn’t seem enough, but say it I do: THANK YOU! It must be bittersweet to let her go and just “be” a hippo with her parents, but yet so rewarding. Sharing her journey with all of you has been a wonderful experience, and I hope someday to see her in person. Many of us on FB call her “Princess Fifi” and she is a member of the Famous Babies Club, along with others like Bei Bei (panda), Tajiri (giraffe) and Princess Twunky (the baby elephant). She is so very special, and you all should be very proud of the loving care she received from all of you.
A lovely tale of dedication and love. Congratulations Team Fiona! You are miracle workers!❤️
Been following since day one she was a fighter and she’s not the hippo of before
Our girl Fiona is off to hippo college! ::sheds a few tears:: What an amazing feat for her and her caretakers. Congratulations!
So beautiful to see the three together!
The care team has done an excellent job of caring and helping to make this all happen. Thank you so much for continued updates. It’s hard to believe that one day Fiona will be as big as Bibi!
Maybe some day Fiona will be a mom! But for now it’s nice to watch her grow.
Your blogs, updates, videos, and pictures during the past 6 months have educated so many about hippos. Fiona is serving an important role in the saving of her species. In the end we will only save what we love, love what we know, know what we are taught.
Such incredibly great news!! I true warm fuzzy feeling in this crazy world. Please keep the daily updates coming. I look forward to seeing that precious face each day. Hope to visit her very soon.
The dedication of the Cincinnati Zoo staff to Fiona has been such a wonderful thing to watch. It was amazing to observe the care she was given and the number of members of the community that came together to help this little hippo. THANK YOU TO ALL! This is truely a story that makes everyone feel good. With all of the negativity in the world, my day was always made brighter with my Fiona updates. Please do not stop now as I am now entranced by the new hippo bloat. I got the chance to see them together last week and it was so entertaining! It was the first day they spent the entire day together and it was so much fun to watch them interact. It is worth the trip to the zoo to see them–and all of the animals. What a great zoo! Keep up the good work and the updates!
Huge congratulations to Fiona and her care team. You guys never gave up, and what a reward!!!
How wonderful! We saw her out in the outdoor pool with her care team at the beginning of June and their dedication to her was amazing as they encouraged her to explore the habitat. We haven’t been back yet to see her again but can’t wait to see the whole family together. We’re so proud to be members of the Cincinnati Zoo!! #TeamFiona
I am honestly crying tears of joy for this precious family. The last number of months have been extremely hard–emotionally–for me and reading this and following BiFiRy’s journey has healed my heart in so many ways…Thank you thank you thank you to the incredible staff there! They are nothing short of heros!!!!! <3
My wife and I along with many of our friends and relatives have followed Fiona and her care team since day one. I admire, and am somewhat jealous, of the work you have done and the results you have achieved. Each and every one of you should be very proud. I hope in the near future we in Tennessee and others from Illinois will be able to come and visit.
I also want to congratulate the zoo on the birth of your baby rhino, Kendi.
What wonderful news that they are all adjusting to the family dynamics. I started following Fiona’s story late so I want to be sure now to retrace her entire story! Love Fiona, Bibi and Henry!
Congratulations to all of the hippo caregivers for a job well done.
I have been following since the day of her birth sending lots of whispered prayers that she would get the chance to be who she was to be…do hard to believe from her tiny beginning so today so excited to be a part of her growing and her family loving her full of acceptance her mommy so amazing her protecter and you her human family (o my gosh what can I say)…you so amazing and do full of love and with the 24/7 care…so much more a job…Thankyou thank you for allowing me to be a part of Fiona and your world…I so hope to make it down before winter
If given a choice, will Fiona follow her human family or her hippo family. And how do the caregivers feel about her moving away from them?
This is a beautiful blog entry. Thank you for always giving us a glimpse into the lives of some pretty amazing hippos.
Fiona needs a baby-hippo sized “Nevertheless, she persisted” t-shirt!
I can’t possibly say enough GOOD things about all of you behind the scenes at our Zoo…Wonderful one and all!
I’m from Lexington ky I have been watch baby hippo center she was born she is a pretty and get big I’m soo happy that she is with her mom and dad To people that take care of her you all do a great job .
I have followed Fiona since the beginning and have been touched by the endearing support this little creature has received from her caregivers. But I have also been aware of the kindness and consideration that, in recent weeks, has been directed at both Bibi and Henry. Certainly, Fiona’s care was founded on professional directives. However, and not to be ignored, that knowledge based caregiving has always been interlaced with a real kindness for all members of this little family. Thank you for this …. from Alberta, Canada.
I have been following Fiona since I was in the hospital having surgery for removing a mass from my pituitary gland in January. Fiona was my inspiration from the beginning. I felt we were fighting the fight together. I have a deep respect for her Team, and all they did for her to get where she is today. I’m from Ohio, but live in Arizona now. I really want to come and visit her sometime.Fiona, you are such a Love! It is wonderful seeing her reunited with her Mom and Dad. This has been quite a ride! Love
Thank you Team Fiona! You have all done an amazing job. You can be so proud! We miss visiting the zoo since moving to SC and hope to get up there soon to see this little miracle baby!
I’m a ‘Fiona follower’ from Brazil and have been keeping up with the progress of baby Fiona since her first days. I fell in love with her and later with Bibi and Henry even I’d never thought hippos attractive at all. But Fiona definitely changed my mind. Thanks to all Fiona team for the amazing work as well as the updates. I’ve already been twice to USA (at Florida & NY) and have never thought in travelling to Cincinnati, but I’m seriously considering a travel to this beautiful city (to visit the CZ&BG and try seeing Fiona, of course). Sorry for any mistake I eventually have made at this comment. Cheers.
I followed Fiona from the start, I’m amazed at the at the excellent job everyone at the zoo did! I am enjoying Fiona’s progress, and loving the updates on the family progress! Thank you all!
All the people involved with Fiona’s care deserve so much thanks for reaching this milestone. You guys worked so hard from her birth to today that you have so much to be proud of in helping Fiona become part of a family. Hopefully your care and learned knowledge will help other Zoos if they are ever faced with the same situation.
Thank you for continuing to share Fiona’s journey with her adoring fans! Seeing them together as a family has to be satisfying to each and every member of Team Fiona! You have succeeded in accomplishing what must have seemed impossible many times in the past months. Thank you for your love for Fiona, Bibi and Henry; Team Fiona ROCkS!!!!!
I live in IRELAND, and I have been following Fíona from her birth. It has been a truly magical experience for me to watch her progress, and to finally see the family reunited. Thank you to Cincinnati Zoo, and all the staff for sharing such a wonderful experience with all of us. We are truly blessed. I will visit Fíona some day.
We visited our in-laws in Cincinnati last weekend, and imagine my joy when I saw all three hippos in Hippo Cove. I stood there with the crowd for an hour watching her play and rest, and she is an adorable FLIRT! What a wonderful job you’ve done, #teamFiona!
I’ve been following this wonderful story from the beginning and I say “Thank You” to the special angels who took charge of that precious little girl and encouraged her to survive. The story has a storybook ending for sure. So happy for Fiona, Bibi, Henry and their wonderful care givers.
This blog was beautifully written and brought tears. Congratulations to #Team Fiona for a job well done! I hope you are proud of your accomplishments with little Fiona as you should be. Thank you for all the updates, videos, blogs, and the smiles each gave me during the day. Here’s to #Team Fiona, Fiona, Bibi, and Henry…you all did good!!
Thank you #TeamFiona, for an amazing ride with our Baby….so good to hear that she is finally adjusting to mama and papa being with her. she is so adorable. who knew that she would become famous and be loved by the world. love her happy faces, and hope to see more of them. A big shout out to her team caregivers–without you, we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy all the videos, pictures and stories of her. thank you again.
Fiona captured my heart when she was born and the circumstances that prevailed.Team Fiona has done a truly outstanding job…hand raising,teaching,and nuturing this baby.You all allowed a miracle to happen.,,Kudos to each and every one of you.,,I know you all love Fiona and I am sure all her Internet family does as well.I so enjoy my daily Fiona fix……❤️That baby&TY.
Thank you for keeping us Fiona Voyeurs up to date. It has been very easy to fall in love with this determined little girl through her journey. #TeamFiona has done a wonderful job in building and reuniting this bloat. I hope this means they are able to relax their vigilance. Are there times when Fiona will remove herself and go back inside even if Bibi and Henry are still outside?
I saw them last Friday and all three were having what looked like was a lot of fun. Fiona is a little stinker because she would bite Bibi’s tail and then take off in the opposite direction. She definitely has a hippo size personality.
Totally crying my eyes out with joy!! Thank you so much for the updates daily of Fiona’s progress and her reunion with her parents!! TeamFiona… words cannot describe or do justice to the amazing work you have done!! Fiona is a such a little trooper, and with you all in her corner, this success was a mutual miracle!! Bless you!!
Amazing amazing inspirational story. Love Fiona and love this little family. Thank you to all of her caretakers that put in so much blood, sweat, tears and TLC to make this a reality. Thank you to Cincinnati Zoo for everything, especially sharing this journey with the world.
P.S. someone was cutting onions while I was reading this. 🙂
I Love Fiona. This is a GREAT love story.