With Thanksgiving right around the corner, our Cincinnati Zoo family, like many other families around the world, has been reflecting upon everything we have to be thankful for this year. Although the loss of Henry has been devastating for our team, the outpouring of love and support has all but filled the hole in each of our hearts. Facebook comments, sympathy cards, flowers, and various other condolence gifts serve as a reminder of not only the positive impact that Henry had on so many lives, but also of the beautiful and nurturing compassion of the human spirit, especially within our Cincinnati community. Though we can’t help but feel a little heart-broken about a future in Hippo Cove without our beloved papa hippo, we are beyond grateful for the precious time we had with Henry and all the amazing, funny, and special memories we made with him.
One of my absolute favorite Henry memories was from August of 2016. The hippos were brand new to our zoo and everyone was excited and anxious to meet them. A small group of our visitor experience employees had been selected for a special animal encounter as a thank-you for their stellar performances throughout the busy summer season. We surprised them with an up close and personal encounter with Bibi and Henry at a behind-the-scenes training area of the habitat. Both hippos happily munched on some afternoon snacks of produce and beet pulp while our visitor experience team fawned over their size and smells, asked questions and took photos. When the snacks were gone, Bibi made her way back towards the pool and Henry dutifully turned to follow her, but before he left the viewing area, he backed up and to everyone’s horror, began dung-showering right at our group! Everyone was laughing and screaming and scrambling to get out of the line of fire, but more than a couple unlucky staff members were christened by Henry that day. Henry did not even bat an eye at the affect his territorial marking had on our group, but we spent the next 5 minutes laughing uncontrollably and assessing the defecation damage. A very important lesson was learned that day about leaving a larger space between guests and Henry’s business end.
While the members of the hippo care team replay fond memories like this in our minds, we are also busy observing how the remaining members of our mini-bloat are managing the loss of their patriarch. While it is impossible for us to know what Bibi and Fiona might be feeling or thinking, on the surface, it appears as though both are handling the loss fairly well. Overall life has gone on as usual, and they continue to do well with each other, eating, playing and growing in their relationship. It seems as though Bibi is more aware of Henry’s absence as she has been observed initiating contact calls, presumably trying to locate him or call him back to the bloat. Fortunately, and perhaps out of necessity, many animals seem to be fairly resilient when dealing with loss, quickly accepting the change and moving on with life as the unforgiving wild does not allow much time for grieving. However the girls may be coping with Henry’s loss, we are grateful that Bibi and Fiona have each other.
Many of our zoo visitors and cyber fans are also curious about how the hippos’ care and management will change during the chilly winter months in Cincinnati. In general, it must be at least 50°F and sunny outside for the hippos to be given access to their outdoor habitat, but even this is subject to change at the care team’s discretion and based upon the needs of our hippos each day. Fortunately, the outdoor pool is heated and kept at 65°F or warmer through the winter months, and even on cooler days the hippo girls are usually given access to both indoor and outdoor spaces so that they can choose where they’d like to spend the day. There are 2 heated and filtered indoor pools inside the building as well, so even if it’s too cold to go out, the girls still have plenty of space to swim and exercise inside. Additionally, keeper staff work busily throughout the day to offer feedings at multiple times and provide fun and interesting new forms of enrichment to keep the girls mentally and physically stimulated through the winter season. Painting, scent enrichment, new foods to try and new toys to play with are just some of the ways we keep life interesting for our hippos indoors.
Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, the winter months give keeper staff our best opportunity of the year to build relationships and train with our animals. One crucial element of training is simply building trust by establishing and developing a relationship with the animals in our care. When the hippos spend colder days inside the building, the care team has many more opportunities throughout the day to interact with our animals and form those all-important bonds. Once the relationship is developed and trust is established, keepers can then begin training the husbandry-based behaviors that help us take better care of our animals, like tusk and tooth management, voluntary blood draws and ultrasounds, and even teaching our hippos to swallow gel capsules in the event that it might be needed for medicating them in the future. Training, like enrichment, is not only physically stimulating, but also challenges our animals mentally, keeping their lives dynamic, interesting and rewarding.
So while the colder months may mean less public viewing opportunities, they are anything but boring for our hippo girls behind-the-scenes. This winter, we will do our best to share stories, pics and video of BiFi so that you don’t miss any of the important milestones or suffer from Fiona withdrawals. And be sure to check in with us at the end of January as Fiona celebrates her first birthday on the 24th! That will be a virtual party you do not want to miss! Happy Thanksgiving to you all! This year, we are most thankful to have your continued love and support!
59 thoughts on “Hippo Blog 11: Hippo Holidays”
Awesome blog post. Loved it! Thank you!
1 day without a Fiona and Bibi post is too long. Thank you for the blog posting today. It’s good to know the girls are dealing so well with the loss of Henry. I hope they will have a healthy, holiday season. I can’t wait to see them in person, but enjoy the blogs until I get the opportunity to see them.
Thank you, IWas missing my daily Fiona fix!
Loved this blog!! Sad, bittersweet but yet hopeful for our hippo girls. This wonderful habitat has been worth every penny invested to create and maintain it! Fiona brought the world in for visits, most virtual visits but many even in- person!
Awesome, Thank you for the update! Loved the Henry humor, we will miss him so.. Getting ready to purchase my first Zoo membership and I am so excited!
HAppy THankgiving Fiona~~~!!! Sorry that your dad won’t join you this year. Have a great time with your mother if she will show you love during time….
Happy THanksgiving Fiona~~~!!! Sorry that your dad won’t join you this year. Have a great time with your mother if she will show you love during time….
Happy Thanksgiving Fiona~~~!
Happy Thanksgiving to all zoo staff and thanks for Fiona–the gift that keeps on giving!!!
Thank you for this awesome blog. Is there any possibility that a camera could be put in place with a monitor on the outside so we could actually see them during the winter months? I so appreciate the work and caring the team does.
Thank you for sharing! Can’t wait to visit the girls again next spring or summer.
Thank you for sharing . I’m from out of state, but visited your zoo this summer, in June, I got to see Henry and Bibi swimming together and later saw Fiona in the pool with one of her care team. We had so much fun, we are taking a road trip next summer and planning on stopping at your zoo again.
I truly enjoyed this blog with regards to the beautiful “hippo ladies” along with great pictures. We all love reading info that helps us learn more about these awesome animals. Thank you so much and to each and every one of you have a Happy Thanksgiving.
Thanks for sharing these stories. Eagerly wait for the next blog to keep involved vicariously in Bifi’s lives. Thank you so much for all your hard work and dedication.
What a fabulous exhibit and what a dedicated staff! We haven’t been yet, but I have purchased Fiona merchandise from the zoo store. Every Saturday we’ve planned to come, it’s either rained or been under 50 degrees.
So very sorry about the loss of Henry….thankfully, if one parent had to become ill, it was not Fiona’s Mama, whom she has bonded with so quickly and deeply. All the same, it’s a major loss, as you said for Bibi.
I heard you were going to have an “animal autopsy” performed. Has that been done and what was the result? Many thanks for all you do! Andy and Debbie Wright
Sweets thing I Have ever heard!!I know it maybe crazy to get tear up, but that’s the way it is!!!!Thank you all for your hard work with all of the animals!!!!
Thank you for all of the amazing work and care you provide these amazing girls. I’ve learned a lot about hippos since Fiona was born, got to see all 3 this past October and love hearing about what goes on behind the scenes. Have a wonderful holiday season, we will be back next summer!
You guys are awesome. So much enjoy the stories about all the animals. Happy Thanksgiving to the entire zoo staff.
I love reading your blogs! And the daily updates on Fiona. Thank you for your care and dedication to all of your animals! Happy Thanksgiving!!
Love the blog updates, thank you for your time. Thank you for sharing what’s going on in the lives of Fiona and Bibi. I’m glad they have each other also, and I’m thankful they have such a supportive, loving Care Team. Happy Thanksgiving to you all.
Thank you ever so much. Please remember though there are folks outside of Cincinnati who also feel deeply the loss of Henry. We fell in love with Fiona initially, but we also fell in love with Henry and Bibi as they are the parents of Fiona. Also, their love story warmed our hearts. Henry following Bibi around like a dutiful mate. lol We feel Henry’s loss very deeply. Thank you for this blog. I am glad that when Fiona and Bibi are not outside they are being taken care of even more and receiving excellent care for their health and enrichment. I feel sadden by Bibi calling for Henry and he is gone from her forever. I do not think animals are any different than humans. Bibi probably misses Henry and wonder where he has gone. I think the same of Fiona. Do not in anyway lessen the effect of Henry dying on both Bibi and Fiona. To humans they are animals, yet, I believe to each other they are like we equate our family. I do hope Bibi and Fiona grow ever closer. They do not know what has happened to Henry, but surely they know by now he is not destined to return. Poor Bibi as she was used to Henry following her and believe she is definitely affected by the lack of his presence. May you all, humans and creatures alike enjoy a wonderful holiday season ahead. I bring you sentiments of fondness from North Carolina.
It’s like you read my thoughts about Henry’s absence. I couldn’t have put it better so I will let you comments speak for me also!
Well said. Do you think BiBi will get a new mate.?
Thank you so much for that beautiful post. I will have Fiona withdrawal for sure during the winter but look forward to receiving my book about her soon! Happy Thanksgiving
Thank you for this beautifully written blog, and thank you for taking such good care of this family. Wishing ya’ll and your families a very happy Thanksgiving.!
I have assiduously followed every step of Fiona’s life, the introduction to Bibi and Henry, the extraordinary loss of Henry. This blog was wonderful in capturing all those special moments, and I’m so grateful to have read it. And I’m delighted to know that there will still be continuing posts about Bibi and our very special Fiona. I am such a fan, and perhaps some day I’ll make it to the zoo (I live in San Diego!). Thank you for all you do, not just for the hippos, but for all the animals.
Great blog post, thank you so much for keeping us informed and for being part of a great Zoo.
I love this blog! Thank you for always keeping us posted, and for taking such good care of our beloved hippos. Now that we have them, I can’t imagine our Zoo without them. We will miss Henry forever, but are thankful for the time we had him, and for him giving us Fiona. Happy Thanksgiving to all!
Thank you for keeping up the blogs and news of our famous “ladies”. It has been a year of blessings and sadness but we continue enjoying the antics of our Fiona. Sharing this time has made special memories. and best wishes for the New Year.
Thanks for the update! Every day I go on Facebook and YouTube hoping for new pics and videos of Fiona and Bibi. Still sad about Henry. Any plans to add another male at some point?
I’m in the UK and one day I will come and meet Fiona. Have followed her and the bloat since day one. Thank you for the regular Fiona fixes, keep them coming. Also, I definitely have some type of crush on Wendy. She is really awesome!
Of course missing Henry is part of the natural life cycle–Are there any prospects of a new “guy” hippo for Bibi? or another hippo?
I love the blog. I feel Fiona is my namesake as that is the alias that I have used at work. I hope that you are able to get a mate for Bibi in the future. Happy Thanksgiving to one and all.
Thank you so much for your continuing care of Fiona and Bibi, and thanks also for your loving care of all the animals. I also appreciate the Cincinnati Zoo’s commitment to creating a sustainable facility. I have not lived in the Cincinnati area for decades—I live out West now—but I have fond memories of the zoo from way back when the opera was performed there. My parents were huge opera buffs, and they would attend not only the performances but would also attend the free dress rehearsals. While my parents would study the singing, my siblings and I would visit the animals. The birth of Fiona has reconnected me with the zoo and I’m so happy to learn that it has developed into a world-class facility. My dream is to visit Fiona one day.
Your commitment has made the highs and lows touching and heartwarming. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story
Thank you for posting this interesting and informative blog! I love leaning about these wonderful Hippos! They have all brought real joy to all of us! We are all saddened by the loss of Henry, but so thankful for the sweet baby he gave us! Fiona and Bibi will continue to make us all smile! To our wonderful Cincinnati Zoo staff, thank you for everything! Blessings to all! Happy Thanksgiving
We feel very grateful to have seen the hippos in person this summer. I was on my way to the Mayo Clinic after having a coronary, and seeing Fiona was the highlight of the trip. We would LOVE to buy a Fiona Painting if those ever are available!
I have been having hippo withdrawl!!!! Thanks much for the update…!!
What a wonderful tribute to Henry. I’m sure he is missed by all the staff as well as Bibi. Sad to hear she was calling for him to return to their bloat. Hoping you will get another male. Also thank you for sharing Fiona’s life with us. This little girl has certainly made a place for herself in our hearts. What a joy to see Bibi and her bond. The Zoo has many things to be thankful for this year.
Thanks so much for the update! Fiona is amazing!! Can’t wait to get back to the zoo and visit BiFi again soon!
Thank you for your love and care for all the animals, but especially for Fiona and Bibi. We all miss Henry terribly, but your love and care continues through good times and bad. Please keep up the Fiona fixes! They are such a bright spot in the day of so many of us.
My day is not complete without a Fiona update. I check in everyday, from Fresno, CA, to see my girls, Bibi and Fiona because they uplift me spiritually and mentally. In January, I was home alone recuperating from knee replacement surgery when a Facebook friend started posting about the miracle hippo baby Fiona. I started rooting for her along with the rest of the world. I have been her follower ever since. I prayed so hard and cried my eyes out when papa Henry passed away. BiFi are a beacon of love, light, and hope in world bereft of many good things. Many thanks to this extraordinary care team for herculean hard work with this hippo family. I can’t wait for my Fiona calendar!
I really enjoyed reading this blog. It was a new version tribute to Henry. My heart is still sad. I loved seeing him here at Dickerson Park was happy that he had a bigger area and a family. I wish I could have made a trip to see him there. Hopefully I will be able to come see Bibi and Fiona soon.
I want so badly to come to the zoo and see Bifi! I’m going to try to schedule a trip with friends this coming spring.
I’m sure this idea has popped up before but I’d like to suggest that the zoo offer patron experiences. Say for $250.00 someone could spend an hour with carekeepers and some of the animals. What a wonderful learning experience! Also, what a way for the zoo to raise funds for enclosure upkeep and new exhibits.
I’ve been an animal lover my whole life and thought about going to school and working in a zoo. What an amazing job you have interacting and conserving wildlife! While I’d love for these animals to be free, I sadly think that zoo life may be the only way that some species will survive.
Thank you for taking care of God’s creatures. Happiest of holidays!
Fiona is so adorable!! She is such a goofball too!!
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I can only echo the comments above. Happy thanksgiving to the staff of the Cincy zoo and for your dedication in caring for all of God’s creations.
Fiona my baby I love you ,we all do. From the moment I saw you my heart belonged to you.
Fiona I love you,we all do. From the moment I saw you I loved you.
Happy Thanksgiving Fiona & Bibi
There is a lot to be thankful for
P.S. Let’s do not forget about the other zoo residents of zoo and staff including volunteers.