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”
Awh, that makes me cry. Thank you for such loving care for all of Gods creatures that are in your care but especially for Henry.
If he isn’t able to bounce back please just control his pain and let him go naturally. He’s given his life for the entertainment and conservation of others. He should have control over how he goes. All the prayers and good thoughts Henry’s way that it won’t even come to this.
It feels like this blog post was written to prepare us for Henry’s demise. I know how much it sucks to put a beloved dog or cat down. I can only imagine the pain of putting a big critter down. It’s the risk you take when you let animals into your life. I support his caretakers and know they have his best interest in mind and his end will come with many tears and much love.
I hate that Henry is ill. We love our animals at the zoo and are so thankful to have such special people to care for them.
After seeing the dedication of your team to pulling Fiona through her early birth to become such a beautiful, happy hippo, I know that Henry s getting the best care possible. I know you are doing everything possible. We are praying for him and you. Hang in there.
Sending healing prayers to Henry! Praying for your whole team to be able to help pull him thru. ♀️
Prayers for Henry and all of his awesome caretaker team.
God will help . Congratulations for all amazing work you guys have done.
Praying for you Henry.
Praying for Henry and god bless the staff that takes care of him you people are amazing , love you. All and Henry is in my thoughts always,!
This situation is chillingly similar to what happened to my horse. At 25 years old, he was still strong and healthy. But something was wrong. Long story short, it was lymphoma that took his life. It frightened me so to read Henry’s story….I know that if he had any type of cancer it probably would have shown up in the blood tests…at least his white blood counts would be abnormal. I felt, too, that you are preparing us through your blog. Thank you so much for sharing all of this with us. Henry looks so happy with Bibi and his little daughter Fiona. Maybe he held on just to be sure she would be all right, and now he is saying his farewells. While I pray that he gets well, I know you all are doing everything you can for him. I am sure he knows that, too. This is just heartbreaking………. <3
My heart is heavy after reading your very informative post regarding Henry. I pray he will make a recovery but if it his time to go, I know he had a good life with keepers who loved and supported his every need. His gift to all of us was little Fiona and his legacy will live on through her. I am still hopeful for more time but not at the expense of pain and suffering. I love all of you keepers and what you do in caring and sharing the love with us. God Bless all of you.
I love our big old Henry. I am sorry that he is older. I got to visit with him this summer when I came to see My ChaCha Fiona. She wasn’t out but Henry was. As a nurse who has Hospice experience I applaud your willingness to keep him comfortable and cared for. Blow him a big kiss for me.
Preparing for the worse but praying for the best!!! Come on Henry! Come on buddy, you still have so much to live for.
Praying for Henry and his care team who are trying with all their might to make him well again….. however GOD may have another plan for him and if so I pray that Henry goes gently into the good night not suffering and free of pain. His legacy is that little cutie Fiona, the first Nile hippo to be born at the zoo in the past 75 years.
Prayers for all at the Cincinnati Zoo ♥️
Henry, you are so loved. This mak es me so sad. Sending you a hug and prayers. I wish we could give you. A kidney transplant.
Preparing for the worse but hoping and praying for the best!!! Come on Henry, come on buddy, you still have so much to live for!! <3
My granddaughter and I pray for Henry almost every night. Continue to keep us posted. We love watching this family frolick together and pray Henry will make a comeback. ❤️
Thank you for sharing this information with us. It helps to be included as we also worry about Henry. We are confident you all (keepers and vet staff) are doing everything possibe to help him. I do pray for his recovery yet we know that life is finite so I also pray that he will not suffer, whatever may be his future. You’ve brought us into the circle that includes dear Henry. We cannot help but love him. Sometimes life is very hard….. Loving Henry, Bibi, and sweet Fiona❤️
Continued prayers for Henry & his care staff.❤
Hoping for a recovery in the old boy! I think one other commentator said it well. He has seen that his girl is well, he knows this and if it’s time, he’s happy! You folks have done such amazing work with this bloat! Hopefully he will slowly recover, but if not you know you and Henry have done well! Praying for Henry!
A friend and I flew out to Cincinnati from Connecticut to meet Fiona, Bibi, and Henry. This was the third weekend of September. At that time, Henry was out with Bibi and they were eating hay together. I’m saddened to learn that Henry’s health is steadily declining. Volunteering at an aquarium, I appreciate all that the hippo care team and the rest of the zoo has provided to both Fiona and Henry. Prayers and positive thoughts are being sent to Henry.
Place your hand on him and let him know that I love him and it will sadden me if he goes. I continue to pray for miracle healing still. Thank you for the love and care you’ve shown. This Hippo family feels like real family to me.
Prayers for Henry!
At least he was able to create Fiona before his illness! I hope he recovers so soon.
Sending love and prayers to darling Henry. Also, to his dedicated caregivers and Bibi and Fiona. All your hard work and loving care is so appreciated. Watching these three has been a delight and for that you all have my heartfelt gratitude. I love this family and my prayers are for all who care for darling Henry.
Your team have been amazing with Fiona and I have been praying that Henry comes thru in the same manner that Fiona did. Sending positive thoughts and much appreciation and admiration for the team.
I am so saddened to hear that Henry’s health is declining. Watching him with Bibi and Fiona has been a delight. He is in my prayers along with his devoted and loving caregivers. It angers me when I read the negative comments. The caregivers do an amazing job and they have my heartfelt gratitude for the job they do. From what I have read they are doing all they can and that is greatly appreciated. I pray darling Henry does not suffer much. He is truly a gentle giant! I have loved watching these three and I will continue to love Hippos, in part because of Henry. My prayers are with his dedicated caregivers and Bibi and Fiona.
Our family loves this happy bloat, and have visited every time we come! Hoping to see a recovery from this strong papa.
Hats off and thanks to our Cincinnati Zoo staff that through great and tough times alike; have kept us informed.
Thank you for your the detailed
blog regarding Henry’s illness. Thank you for your transparency. It helped me emotionally prepare for his future and of the responses of Bebe and Baby Girl Fiona. And of course staff at the zoo will deeply affected by your loss. Please commit to keep him comfortable as long as feasibly possible and hope Bebe and Fiona will be able to say their hippo goodbyes. They will need closure I’m sure. Thank you for your dedication.
Crazy thought. Do you think he was happy with he and she? He may have gotten jealous of Fiona and that let his
Immune system down ? Just wondering !
With tears in my eyes, I wish comfort for Henry. To Henry’ s Care Team, I have you in my thoughts at this challenging time.
Thank you for your explanation and your dedication to your hippos. I know this is a difficult time and my thoughts and prayers are with Henry as well.as his caregivers.
I know you guys are doing everything you can. We are all praying for Henry and care givers. I have fallen in love with Henry . Thank you for giving him such great care.
When you love animals, you do your very best to keep them alive and well. When we finally realize that all of our loving-care cannot keep our beloved animals with us forever, we begin the difficult task of letting go, while still doing our very best to make sure that what we are doing is keeping their quality of life as good as possible! Thankfully, most of us know know when the time has to come to let our beloved animal go. I feel sure that the wonderful staff that has taken care of Henry, Bibbi, and Fiona, will continue to care for Henry with the same love & dedication they have always given to him. I will miss him, because he will always be a part of Fiona’s story! His gentle manner with Fiona made me fall in love with him,too, and his funny grin when he & Fiona were doing their first photo shoot made me laugh out loud! I suspect Fiona’s sassy attitude came from him. God bless all of you that have worked so hard to bring Fiona to us, and who have taken such good care of all of her family!
After reading this blog, my heart is broken, as it seems pretty clear that Henry is going to need to be euthanized. I am so glad that for a brief time he was able to know his daughter Fiona and that all three hippos were able to live as a “bloat” together. It was the perfect ending to all of the struggles with Fiona. At 36, Henry is a “senior”, and he has not been feeling well for months. As much as everyone wants to have the “happy ending” continue, it is unfair to Henry to continue trying to keep him alive for this purpose. He deserves to be free of pain and suffering, even though everyone wants him alive and wishes he would get well. His poor body is weary and weak, and he needs to be put to rest.
Whoops…I hit enter too soon! Of course, I am still praying for Henry’s recovery, and have not completely given up, but I am trying to prepare myself for what may be coming. He could, however, surprise us all! I would love nothing more than for this to happen! I do not want his team of caretakers to give up on him; just to have the wisdom to know when the time is right. My heartfelt thanks to all of his keepers who have so tirelessly been working to help him recover.
I don’t know if this was already suggested, but maybe the caretakers could try medicines for depression. Sometimes males exhibit signs of postpartum depression too. Just wondering
Saying prayers tonight for Henry’s health.
My heart breaks for Henry, but I also feel sadness for his caretakers who are doing everything they can to make Henry comfortable.
I’m sure this is very hard for you. May God bless you and help you to do what you think is best for Henry.
Henry, I wish you could know how many people love you and are Thankful to have been a part of your life❤️❤️❤️
So sorry to hear this about Henry. I was surprised to hear that Nile Hippo’s have such a short life. I only hope that he will not suffer. I also hope that his caregivers do not suffer his loss but take pride that they gave him a wonderful life. I’m heartbroken to think that Fiona and Bibi will not have anymore time with Henry. I loved seeing the 3 of them together. I will keep that picture in my head of the happy time they had together.
I agree with you MommaMac, the care that the caregivers can never be questioned. Fiona had no chance at all and look what they have done for her. I’m so sorry that Daddy hippo is not well. I really appreciate the open and honest explanation that we were given about Henry and I know that they have done everything that could be done for Henry. When something does happen to Henry, we have Fiona to carry on and remind us daily of Henry. Dear Lord, Thank you for Henry’s life, I ask that he does not suffer. In His Holy name, Amen
Thank you for taking the time to prepare us. Now concentrate on on your sweet Henry and yourselves.
I am so very sorry and heartbroken to hear that Henry is not doing well. My prayers and thoughts are with you all. I have so much enjoyed watching Fiona’s story and seeing her reunited with Henry and Bibi. We know you will do what is best for Henry, bless you all!
AWWWW , Felt so very sad and upset , reading Henry’s blog about his ill health. Sending tons of Prayers and Love to Henry have him well and truly in my thoughts <3 . At least if sadly something does unfavourably happen to him , he and baby Fiona have shared some loving and memorable times together along with Bibi <3 <3 <3 . May he be with us for a bit longer as long as he's in a comfortable state . Much Love from us in Australia <3
Ahh…this makes me sad. I have come to adore this hippo family. I hope he will rebound although the sad truth is that we all have the same eventuality. Thank you for taking good care of him and letting us know his status.
Much praise for your continuing efforts to cure Henry’s depleting infection; and praying that God will help you through whatever you have to face in his future. You’re doing a great job…all our thanks.
Continued prayers for sweet Henry! Hope he pulls through and is back with his family! ❤️❤️
Praying for Henry and the hippo team.
Way to use your intelligence. Calling people names for expressing their thoughts, opinions and interpretation of the facts presented. Have they reached out to other zoos that have had success in raising geriatric hippos??