As many of you know, our sweet male hippo Henry has been having health issues for the last few months and you probably have dozens of questions about what’s been going on. Henry has taken our care team on quite the roller coaster. In this blog, I’ll do my best to fill everyone in on the last few months and what Henry’s immediate future may look like.
Midway through July, #TeamFiona was absolutely ecstatic to be celebrating the reunion of our hippo bloat! We had finally put all 3 hippos together outside for the first time and after some initial coaching from Bibi, Henry and Fiona had finally found a rhythm with each other and seemed to be hitting it off. All three hippos would go outside together and spend the majority of their days napping on top of each other, just like any other hippo bloat. It was the fairytale ending that we had all hoped and dreamed of for Fiona and it felt like we could finally breathe a sigh of relief and take a moment to celebrate what an amazing success story Fiona’s life had become. But sadly, our euphoria was short-lived. Henry began to lose his appetite for no apparent reason and his stool output was not normal (diarrhea).
On the surface, a decrease in appetite (and subsequent decrease in defecation) isn’t necessarily a reason for alarm and any number of issues could have been the cause. Looking through his records from Dickerson Park, we learned that in the past, Henry had occasional bouts of decreased appetite, but that he always seemed to come back around to his old self within a week or two. At 3650lbs, Henry was at his highest weight since arriving in Cincinnati so we weren’t terribly concerned about him skipping a meal or two. Additionally, hippos are notoriously hardy animals that often thrive under human care, so our panic level was pretty low and we felt confident that we could help Henry overcome this minor health hiccup. The bigger concern at the time was actually whether or not Henry’s affliction might be contagious.
At this same time, Fiona was tipping the scales at a whopping 370lbs, and she had been certifiably healthy for weeks. But the compromised immune system of a preemie might have a hard time fighting off even the smallest infection, so Henry had to be quarantined away from Bibi and Fiona until we could be certain that whatever was causing his decreased appetite was not something that could be transmitted to the hippo girls. The entire hippo building was sanitized, top to bottom, and Henry moved into the stalls across the hallway so that he would not be in direct contact with the girls. Fecal samples were collected from Henry, and our veterinary staff prescribed pain medicine and antibiotics which Henry took orally mixed with applesauce and beet pulp. His interest in food was limited and he became pickier and pickier about what he would eat. Sometimes he would sample a food item and go as far as chewing it up, only to spit it out on the floor instead of swallowing it. We tried offering different kinds of hay grown from different farms and we gave Henry a variety of produce items (including all of his favorites like watermelon and collard greens) to encourage him to eat. Probiotics were added to his diet to provide him with good bacteria and yeasts that would promote gut health, and additional medicines were prescribed to treat and prevent stomach ulcers in case that was the culprit. Our veterinary, nutrition and care teams were attacking this ailment from every angle and with every bit as much tenacity as we had dealt with Fiona’s myriad of health problems. As one zoo guest commented on Facebook, “After Fiona, treating Henry should be a walk in the (zoological) park!”, and we felt the same way.
When Henry’s fecal tests all came back negative, we knew that whatever was affecting Henry was not contagious and could not be transmitted to Bibi or Fiona, so we resumed managing the hippos as a bloat of three. With a number of possible causes now ruled out, we began considering other less likely and more abstract sources. We considered tooth, tongue and throat issues, but nothing seemed to be abnormal when Henry would open wide and allow us to investigate his mouth. And the selective and inconsistent patterns of food consumption made it all the more puzzling. Some days he would eat a food item in bulk and then completely lose interest in it, opting for something different a few days later. Aside from the eating issues, Henry seemed to be himself in almost every other capacity. He was alert and interactive with keeper staff and still dutifully following Bibi around like a lost puppy. Fiona was a bit too playful for him at times but the majority of the time, all three hippos would spend an entire day napping together peacefully under the waterfall. It was confusing and frustrating, but we limped along offering different food options, taking notes, medicating, and trying to figure out why Henry had become such a picky eater.
From mid-August to mid-September, Henry showed slow but consistent improvement and was doing well enough that we began to transition him very slowly back to his normal diet and routine. All the specialty food items that had been added to encourage his appetite were gradually being phased back out, the supportive medicines were being reduced and we had begun to ease him back outside during the day with Bibi and Fiona. It appeared as though Henry was on the mend and we were cautiously optimistic that the worst was behind us.
But towards the end of September, Henry’s appetite and eating habits inexplicably began to deteriorate once again. We did an about-face and reintroduced all of the supportive elements that seemed to help the first time around, but Henry continued to decline. He became pickier and pickier until he was barely eating anything and he began losing weight. Additionally, he became more lethargic and less interactive with keeper staff and even his interactions with Bibi and Fiona diminished. In mid-October, with few options remaining, we decided to anesthetize Henry so that our veterinary staff could safely conduct a full and thorough physical exam to try and determine the cause of the mystery illness.
Anesthetizing an animal for a procedure is always risky, even when the animal is in perfect health, so everyone on the care team was extremely nervous about the procedure. Thankfully, Henry’s exam went relatively smoothly and allowed our vet staff to collect blood and fecal samples, examine Henry from nose to tail (everything seemed to be in good health), administer medications, and even transfer some of Bibi’s healthy gut bacteria into Henry’s stomach (a treatment known as “transfaunation”). At the end of the procedure, Henry rested and recuperated while the care team anxiously awaited the results of the blood work.
Within 24 hours we had our answers. Henry’s white blood cell count revealed that his body was fighting a very serious infection internally. Additionally, and even more worrisome, Henry’s kidneys appeared to be shutting down. We immediately began an aggressive treatment plan focused on getting antibiotics into Henry to help his body battle the infection with the hopes that his kidneys could recover and heal as well. About a week and half later, Henry’s appetite and lethargy had still not improved, despite our best efforts to treat him, so we collected blood again to reassess Henry’s health. This time, our team was shocked but thrilled to see that almost all of Henry’s blood values were within normal ranges! It was encouraging information, but it did not explain why Henry’s behavioral health continued to deteriorate.
Since then, our veterinary, nutrition and care staff have continued to work diligently around the clock to treat Henry, and in theory the treatments should be working. But for whatever reason, Henry’s body is not responding. The median life expectancy for male Nile hippos is 35. At 36 years old, our sweet Henry hippo is already in his golden years, and despite our best efforts, his health and quality of life continue to decrease each day. We’re doing everything we can to keep him comfortable.
As always, our care team is eternally grateful for the endless love and support you’ve shown us and our animals, especially through the toughest of times.
350 thoughts on “Hippo Blog: Helping Henry”
I have visited Henry every year since I was a child. He is 1 year older than me. I havn’t seen him since he was relocated to the Cincinnati zoo but I was so relieved to see him moved to a more suitable enclosure. He was able to build a bond with bibi (he had never had contact with other hippos before being relocated which was just awful), he has been able to produce a beautiful baby girl (wish she had been named henrietta 🙂 ), and hes getting the professional care he needs. I hope he pulls through this. Its just so sad to finally see him happy and now his health is declining rapidly. Henry played an unforgettable roll in my 33 years. Please, just keep him comfortable and keep his pain level down as much as possible.
Oh my this is so saddening please do not give up until the very end please still try aggressive treatments just like Fiona he may surprise us if it truly is his time to be called home keeping him comfortable certainly is the right thing to do God bless our Henry and thank you Henry for giving us our precious Fiona
Through facebook I feel as though I have become part of your family..You have taught us how beautiful and special these massive animals are…Every day I look for this beautiful hippo family and have prayed for them all…With Henth getting up in years if he passes away will Bibi and. Fiona be ok without him??? Its so sad to say goodbye to such a beautiful boy like him..Thank You for sharing his story..It is with such sadness that we follow but I know how hard your all working to keep him comfy..God bless you all.
Prayers for Henry. So very sad but he has had a long life. Can his bacterial infection be transmitted to Fiona and Bibi or is it more the kidney failurei?
Praying for Henry, I have enjoyed his family story so much. Everyone loves Fiona and Bibi. Wishing them all the best.
No.No.No. Henry is just so much a part of Fiona’s story. This breaks my heart, checking this little family is a daily, highlight. It brings such a smile and happiness to my heart. I’m continuing prayers for Henry no matter what
I hope things go well and my good thoughts and prayers are with Henry, his little family and his large, competent Zoo family. Glad to hear his is being kept as comfortable as possible……
As an animal lover, my heart breaks reading this story and I cannot help but to compare it to a human experience. I can’t help but to think that if a human child came into the world 2 months early, fought death, then became famous, that the dad would potentially fight depression and stop eating as well. Can you imagine going through that as a father?! Poor Henry. Maybe he needs some alone time and love from Bibi. Mental health so highly impacts physical health. People look at me funny because I give animals so much credit in the emotional spectrum, but they are truly just like us. Keep fighting for him! He needs TLC, love, and attention. Poor guy. Thanks for all you do!!
Awwwww, Henry we will keep you in our prayers, we love you and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for Fiona. We hope this is not good-bye yet. Such a sweet Hippo Bloat/ Family we have really enjoyed watching them together this year. Thank you, TeamFiona/TeamHenry/TeamBibi/TeamHippoBloat for all you do!
The pictures of Fiona, Bibi and Henry are so sweet! Awesome job, well done!
This is such sad news. I pray that Henry will improve and enjoy more years with Bibi and Fiona. If that is not to be, I thank your staff for doing all you could to find out his problems and keeping him comfortable.
To all the zoo staff. Thank you so much for all the love and tender care you are giving Henry. Your love is like nurses and doctors taking care of new borns and elderly. Our prayers go out to Henry and to all of you loving people. You are so very special.
It’s sad we humans outlive our beloved animal friends and see them pass away. Just take comfort in knowing Henry had so much love, care and happiness in his zoo home and family!
I hope you can bring him back to a healthy state. Kidney failure is very serious. I am sure the care team is doing everything possible.
Could any of this be related to the introduction to Fiona to the mix? Could this have been too stressful for him
I’m keeping Henry, Bibi and Fiona in my prayers. I know you’re doing everything under the sun for him. My prayers are also for you in the the hard work you are doing for Henry. Please keep him comfortable and pain free. Love ❤️❤️❤️ To all of you.
THANK YOU to ALL those in care of Henry, Bibi and Fiona. <3 THANK YOU for not giving up, for your LOVE and COMPASSION to these precious creatures that we ALL also LOVE so dearly!!!! My heart is breaking…wish he could watch his Daughter grow up…. Thanks to him, we have HER!
My heart is heavy for Henry, Bibi, and Fiona. I pray God will send his healing angels for this precious Hippo Family. Thank you, Zoo Staff, for everything you are doing to save Henry and keeping his family safe. Blessings to all of you and hugs for the coming days.
Thoughts and prayers for Henry. Your team is amazing!! Thank you fpr doing such a wonderful diligent job!!
I’m so very sad at the news of Henry’s declining health but I still believe in miracles! I will keep praying for him and the zoo staff that they make the best decisions for his health and quality of life. The little hippo family brings smiles to me every day-I feel so blessed to be a part of their wonderful lives together.
Thank you zoo staff for all you do. It must be heartbreaking for you too but oftentimes we don’t think of what you’re going through.
Henry, Bibi and Fiona have brought so much joy to so many people. This is heartbreaking, but thank you for taking such good care of Henry and his family. We are lucky to have such a great zoo in our city.
I am so upset to hear this devastating news about Henry. My eyes are leaking tears of sadness for this sweet hippo family. Could kick myself for not driving to Cincy to see them all together ….and with the weather getting cold, no doubt I am out of luck.
Sending virtual hippo hugs to him, Bibi, Fiona and all of his human family at the Zoo.
We were devastated to hear the news about Henry’s death. We (my husband and I, here in Finland’s capital Helsinki) have been following Fiona, Bibi and Henry from January on and the whole hippo family has stolen our hearts! Our warmest thoughts are with Bibi and Fiona and of course with you dear caregivers.
I’m so very sorry for your loss. It’s abudantly clear how much you all loved him. Thank you for loving him enough to say goodbye when his time was right.
I can not even begin to imagine the sorrow the Cincinnati Zoo’s staff must feel at this moment. Thank you all so much for the gift you give us with this Hippo bloat.
I have been watching Henry, Bibi )and eventually Fiona) since about November last year. I have enthusiastically shared any hippo related news with my family and friends here in South Africa. Having just found about about Henry’s passing, I am devastated. I really hoped he was going to show some of little Fiona’s fighting spirit.
I would like to send my deepest condolences to all of his caregivers, vets and any helping hands thats hearts were touched by him. I’m glad he had the chance to spend those few years in a newer, happier environment. You guys all did so much for him and I’m sure he appreciated every little bit you did for him. May his big soft soul Rest In Peace and may Bibi and Fiona adjust to his absence with as much ease as possible.
Praying for Henry and all of his care team. Henry certainly has had a wonderful life and together with Bibi created another wonderful life. So sorry to read this update, but all of his fans know that he is in good hands and that he is getting extraordinary care and love. ❤️
Today we thank the Creator for the beautiful and powerful spirit of Henry. We thank the two-leggeds for their sacrifice in helping Fiona, in helping Henry. We thank Henry for using his powerful spirit to help Fiona live. He gave his spirit so she could live!
Now Henry is with Steve Irwin and St.Francis along with Humpty the baby hippo that died at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Sanctuary, and Gustavito the adult male killed in Central America. We pray that Henry’s spirit watches over Fiona and Bibi, Winnie and her mom at the Memphis Zoo, and Funani and her baby boy hippo at the San Diego Zoo.
Maybe we’ll see part of Henry’s spirit pass to Funani’s little boy in San Diego!
My wife and I are truly blessed to have been at the zoo when the family was re-united!
We got to see the whole family all day. We got to see Henry playing a little rough with Fiona and watching Bibi correct him. We got to see Fiona egg on dad by biting his lips and mouth trying to get him into trouble with mom. We got to see this beautiful bloat sleeping together.
We drove over 1000 miles this summer to bless this little family. We left being blessed by them!
Fiona and this family have touched the hearts of many two-leggeds but, Fiona, Bibi, and Henry have also touched the heart of a dragon! Today we honor Henry!
Pilamaya brother Henry. May your spirit watch over Fiona and Bibi and Wiinnie and her mom and Funani and her baby boy. May your spirit remind us of what’s truly important!
Today we love and honor Henry
Thank you for all of your care and help with Henry, I am sure he knew that he was loved by the Hippo Care Team and of course by BiBi and Fiona. I am sure it was a tough call this morning when decisions where made, but you did the right thing! My thoughts and prayers are with the Hippo Care Team as I am sure they are grieving at this team. Thank you for loving Henry! I was able to visit the zoo about 2 weeks and I count myself so very fortunate to have seen the entire Hippo Family Together. In fact it was because of Henry opening up his mouth that Fiona stood up and I was able to really see her!
I am so very sad to hear about the death of Henry. 🙁
I follow (from the Netherlands) the hippo family since Fiona was born and I enjoyed every day to see or to read about them.
I was very concerned about Henry’s health issues and prayed for him, Bibi and Fiona. They were such a lovely family! They stole my heart!
I hope that Bibi and Fiona can overcome this loss. They must miss his presence!
I will thank the care team for their extremely good concerns and efforts to save him and for the good live you gave him at your Zoo.
I am with you in my thoughts !
I am so sad to hear about the dead of Henry! It brought me to tears!
I follow the hippo family since Fiona was born and I enjoyed every day to see or read about their adventures.
I was very concerned to hear about Henry’s health issues and prayed that he may heal.
I thank the care team for giving Henry their best care and love. And I thank them for the happy time they give Henry at this Zoo. I am glad that he had the chance to get to know his little daughter. He will live in her!
I hope that Bibi and Fiona will overcome his death. I think they sure will miss his absence…
My condolences and warmest thought for the staff.
I am so sad to hear that Henry has died. I have followed their journey from the beginning and I look for their updates everyday. I feel I know you all! This is the saddest update and I am sure you are all devastated. Thank you for everything you do for all the animals and especially the hippo family.
My heart goes out to everyone involved with Henry. Several years ago my much loved Saddlebred show horse went through a similar ordeal. Always a good eater, she inexplicably stopped eating anything but some pasture grass and carrots. Bloodwork and other exams revealed little. She was treated for everything from ulcers to pnemonia. Every possible treatment found no improvement and all the reknown equine specialists were without further ideas. When it became apparent that the only way she would remain comfortable, but still losing weight, was on daily doses of Banamine, I had to make the decision to euthanize her. Sadly, necropsy found no cause. It is so heartbreaking when you want to keep trying but don’t even know what the source problem is. I continue to second guess how we should have tried to manage her situation. All I can say to all that loved and cared for Henry is that sometimes there are simply no answers and one has to believe that everything that could be done was done.
You all are doing a great job caring for Henry. It’s not nearly as easy as taking care of Fiona, and it is a frustrating, demanding, and nerve-wracking time. No matter what happens to Henry, we know you all have done your best for him. Keep in mind that everything you do for him will also help other hippos as they age, so none of this is in vain.
Please consider renaming “Hippo Cove” to “Henry’s Hippo Cove” in honor of sweet, gentle Henry.
Dear Sweet Henry. We all know how hard this must be, for a staff that so recently pulled out all the stops to save a preemie, Fiona. I never have gotten to see Henry, but I love the family pictures! Especially Fiona being his “dentist”!
I wish you all the best. My heart goes out to you all, hippos included.
I hope the Cincinnati Zoo hippo team knows the how much we love them for caring of these wonderful animals and how their efforts are touching the hearts of people all over the world
I am so very sorry and sad to read of your loss of sweet Henry. I have checked on this wonderful family every day since I learned of Fiona shortly after she was born and they have been a source of great comfort during a time in history when there is very little. To all the hippo caregivers: Profound thanks for doing such important work that is greatly appreciated all around the world.
Farewell, sweet prince, and bands of angels see thee to thy rest (with apologies to Shakespeare). Thank you, Cincinnati Zoo care team, for all you’ve done, and will continue to do for Fiona and Bibi. This is hard, but you did all that you possibly could to save Fiona and Henry and the species. Keep up your good, hard work. I’d take you all out to dinner if I could.
may u rest in peace henry. ur staff did a wonderful job. we tk God for them and the Cinti Zoo. praying also for “our 2 girls”. our sympathies to ur 2-legged friends
I have watched and fallen in love with what I consider a big part of my family not in weight but in heart! Fiona like many human babies had to be cared for by others than her birth family. What love and understanding was shared. She was given a chance to meet hearts with Bono and Henry and even in their world they knew they were meant to be. I cried many tears at the passing of Henry. He was big and bold and beautiful and had a heart to match for his little Fiona. We will miss you Henry and so will little Fiona
I am so very sad to hear about the loss of Henry. I sat here and cried. After Fiona coming such a long way, the loss of her father to old age is truly heartbreaking.
I have been following the hippo family since Fiona was born and I could not wait to read the posts each day. Thanks for educating all of us on what wonderful animals hippos are.
I was very concerned about Henry’s health issues and prayed for him, Bibi and Fiona. They were such a lovely family and they stole all of our hearts.
I know Bibi and Fiona must feel his loss as they all seemed so happy and content together.
I want to thank the care team for the extremely good care they gave Henry and their efforts to save him, and also for the good life he had at your Zoo. He sounded like such a personable and happy hippo. Rest in peace papa hippo.
I am so heartbroken to hear of Henry’s passing. He was such a gentle giant. His big eyes seemed to be so full of love for Fiona and Bibi. May his memory be eternal…
RIP Henry! Along with millions of other people, I have also followed the Fiona story from day 1…the ups and downs….. the super care that the staff has given the hippo family…the pictures, the love, etc.
Henry will be missed for sure! xoxo
I knew the zoo staff were preparing us for losing Henry but I still had hopes for a miracle and a turn around in his condition. However, I am grateful to the zoo staff that Henry was not allowed to suffer, and I know their hearts ache so much right now. I never realized that he and Bibi were together such a short time and I am so glad that Henry adored Bibi so much. Alas, I fear Bibi is far more pragmatic and will be quite busy teaching Fiona to be a proper hippo. I am certain Fiona is old enough to remember Henry throughout her life. She loved Henry in a very special way and will miss him, even though she has her BFF Bibi..
I thought the same: “Oh no, they’re preparing us for the worst.” How much harder it must have been for them! I loved how Henry loved Bibi, and I think you’re right that she will be occupied more with Fi than Henry’s passing! 🙂 I wish I could get over feeling like Henry died of a broken heart (over being separated from Bibi because of precious little Fiona). Nobody’s fault though; he was a grand, old hippo! I’ll not forget him!
This hippo family just touches our hearts. We will miss you Papa Hippo, but know that your family is in the best of hands as your care team took the very best care of you. You were a much loved Hippo and you returned that love tenfold. You brought us smiles and little Fiona . . . rest easy sweet Henry . . . you did good!
My wife and I were wondering if Henry’s immune system was compromised, as an elder, and may have caught something from Fiona. If so, maybe what we learned here is that an elder’s immune
system is just as precarious as a baby’s. Just a thought.
Thoughts and prayers for Bibi. She needs to keep her strength up for Fiona.
Sue, thanks for your concern for the Hippo Family here at Cincinnati Zoo. I, too, share your love of all things ‘animal’ as following them adds so much to our lives.