Fiona (hippo)

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Fiona with her mother Bibi

Fiona is a female hippopotamus ( Hippopotamus amphibius ) that was born on January 24, 2017 at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden . Since August 2017, videos of the hippopotamus can be seen on the Internet, which received worldwide attention and triggered a "Fionamania". Fiona is the first hippo to have prenatal ultrasound images .

Birth and first year of life

The hippopotamus bull "Henry" spent over 30 years at Dickerson Park Zoo in Springfield , Missouri , and was relocated to Cincinnati in June 2016 . The Flusspferdkuh "Bibi", born in 1999, came in the same year from the Forest Park of St. Louis located St. Louis Zoo to Cincinnati. There they were housed in the newly built "Hippo Cove" after the zoo had not kept hippos for 20 years. On January 24, 2017, the calf of the two hippos was born six weeks early; it weighed only 13 kilograms. The normal gestation period for hippos is around eight months and the birth weight should be between 25 and 54 kilograms.

The zoo team named the young animal “ Fiona ” because of the similarity of its ears to those of the female main character of the same name from the film series Shrek , as well as referring to the origin of the name from Gaelic fionn [ fjũːɴ ] “white; beautiful".

Fiona is the first hippo calf in 75 years to be born in the Cincinnati Zoo, the second oldest in the United States, founded in 1875. Because it was premature, it was cared for around the clock with the help of nurses from the Cincinnati Children's Hospital . Hippo calves at full term can stand and run immediately after birth, which was not the case with Fiona; it was feared that the weak young would not survive. It was fed a mixture of its mother's milk and supplementary bottle feeding. A few weeks after its birth, it got its first teeth, refused the bottle and dehydrated , which is why specialists from the Cincinnati Children's Hospital placed a venous catheter for artificial feeding .

On February 5, 2017, Fiona took her first steps. When she was introduced to the media on May 31st, she weighed 125 kilograms. In June 2017, she reached a normal weight of 144 kilograms for her age and in August 2017 she weighed 250 kilograms. In June 2017 she was successfully reunited with her parents. At the end of October 2017, Fiona's father Henry had to be put to sleep after a long illness at the age of 36. On her first birthday on January 24, 2018, Fiona already weighed more than 297 kilograms. For safety reasons, the full-time carers have only been handling Fiona through metal barriers since around mid-December 2017 due to her size, her high weight of over 297 kg and the potential danger to humans .

Pregnancy check-up and rearing

Since the mother animal Bibi was used to being touched by humans, ultrasound examinations were possible for the first time on a large hippopotamus. He had been taught to voluntarily stand still in a metal box, the wide spacing of which allowed direct contact by the veterinarian and nursing staff. Fiona is said to be the first hippopotamus in the world to have an ultrasound performed prenatally and to record its prenatal development through weekly sonographies. Although the examinations had already been carried out since August 2016, clear ultrasound images were only obtained at the beginning of January 2017 with the lowering of the uterus.

Since the calf could not be nursed because of its initial weakness, Jessye Wojtusik, postdoctoral fellow at the zoo's Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife, zoo nutritionist Barbara Henry and scientist Michael Power at Smithsonian's Milk Repository in Smithsonian's National Zoo helped develop Fiona's keepers have their own care concept, as there were no reports from other zoos on hand-rearing hippos. In addition, Wojtusik and later the keepers in the zoo milk a hippopotamus for the first time. For the first time, Michael Power was able to determine the exact composition of the breast milk of hippos and nutrient fluctuations by examining the samples from day 1, 3, 8 and 9. Until then, the scientists only had an imprecise research report from 1959, which also stated that the fat content of milk was too high. Power found that the milk is very rich in protein, relatively low in sugar and fat, and similar to that of anteaters.

Based on this composition, the bottle-feeding was produced in order to optimally supply it with nutrients, in addition to the bottle-feeding with the milk milked twice a day, which was not sufficient to fully feed the calf. The formula for making food was varied based on observations by zookeepers and veterinarians about weight gain or loss, energy levels, blood counts and digestion of the calf. The experiences and findings are summarized in a handbook that is also intended to serve as a guide for other zoos when it comes to hand-rearing hippos.

In addition, a small portion of the milk has been made available for further analysis to the Smithsonian's Milk Repository , which houses the largest collection of exotic animal milk in the United States, with 15,000 milk samples from at least 130 different mammal species. For example, based on the milk samples taken at the Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute, research will be carried out into how nutrient content and composition change during the suckling period. In addition, Bibi's milk will be compared with that of other female hippos in order to find out specific differences.

Marketing and Media

Starting in August 2017, new videos were published weekly on the initiative of Facebook (there The Fiona Show ), which had 27 million views by January 2018 and over 1 million followers in June 2018. The number of video clicks at the zoo rose from eight to 106 million in six months. The photo of a young man who proposed marriage to his girlfriend in front of Fiona's water basin spread in the media around the world, while the animal looked on apparently approvingly through the glass pane. The media described this as photobombing . There are also numerous merchandise products with the slogan Team Fiona and the image of Fiona. A local brewery launched a Team Fiona beer and donated 25 percent of sales to the zoo, raising $ 30,000 by November 2017. Several books have been published about Fiona so far, including the children's book Saving Fiona , written by the zoo director Thane Maynard .


Media critics such as Delaney Ross are rather skeptical about media presentations by zoo animals. On the one hand, zoos could use such campaigns to draw attention to special, endangered animal species - hippos like Fiona are classified as "endangered". The increased media attention to individual zoo animals also increases the number of visitors and income of the respective zoo or animal park. However, such facilities are in a certain way also detrimental to the mental and physical condition of the animals, as the conditions in the enclosure often do not even come close to the natural conditions of the animals' home. In addition, it should be questioned what the respective zoo really does with the income from media hype and merchandising.

The media hype about zoo animals is sometimes seen as tasteless. For example, live broadcasts of the birth of the giraffe lady “April” on YouTube and other video portals were so strongly criticized that they had to be removed again. The reason given by critics was that such images were "vulgar" and "exploitative".

A November 2017 article in the New York Times about the hippo criticized that it could be dangerous to overly celebrate and humanize wild animals by projecting your own fantasies and desires onto them and turning the depiction into a heartwarming story that serve to reinforce one's sense of kindness. The animal becomes a meme , a product, a sales unit (Original: “… it can be dangerous to overhype and anthropomorphize wild animals, as we project our fantasies and desires onto them and turn the narrative into a heartwarming tale that serves to reaffirm our own sense of goodness. The animal becomes a meme, a product, a unit of sale. ")

Mike Shriberg, director of the National Wildlife Federation's Great Lakes Regional Center , welcomes Fiona's awareness of drawing attention to wild hippos, but criticizes the media coverage for avoiding serious problems such as shrinking habitats and illegal wildlife hunting.

Rebecca Lewison, ecologist at San Diego State University and chairwoman of the Hippo Specialist Group of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources; German "International Union for the Preservation of Nature and Natural Resources") sees no major disadvantage in the humanized representation Fionas, but not a big advantage for wild hippos either. The public has a lot of “hippopotamus enthusiasm”, which is not reflected in support for the protection of wild hippos.


  • Jan Sherbin: Hip, Hippo, Hooray for Fiona !: A Photographic Biography . Insights Productions, 2017, ISBN 0692949356
  • Thane Maynard: Saving Fiona: The Story of the World's Most Famous Baby Hippo . Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston 2018, ISBN 1328544192
  • John Hutton: Fiona's Feelings Board book , blue manatee press, 2018, ISBN 193666965X

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b Favorite on the net - hippopotamus Fiona becomes a media star. In: November 29, 2017. Retrieved June 24, 2018 .
  2. Perry Schaible, wkrc: Hippos "Henry" and "Bibi" make debut at Cincinnati Zoo. In: July 21, 2016, accessed June 25, 2018 .
  3. Nothing Else Matters Today Because It's Fiona The Hippo's Birthday. In: January 24, 2017, accessed June 24, 2018 .
  4. Hippopotamus Hippopotamus amphibius. In: March 2, 2016, accessed June 24, 2018 .
  5. Am Faclair Beag , sv fionn
  6. ^ Fiona Phenomenon. In: June 8, 2013, accessed June 25, 2018 .
  7. a b Abc News: Meet Fiona the hippo, a social media star. In: January 19, 2018, accessed June 24, 2018 .
  8. a b c d Shauna Steigerwald: Cincinnati Zoo's premature hippo Fiona takes first steps. Cincinnati Enquirer, February 5, 2017, accessed June 24, 2018 .
  9. Cincinnati Children's team gives Fiona life-saving IV. WCPO Cincinnati, February 20, 2017, accessed June 24, 2018 .
  10. Hospital saves dehydrated baby hippo at Cincinnati Zoo. BBC , February 21, 2017, accessed June 24, 2018 .
  11. Shauna Steigerwald: Fiona the hippo dazzles in front of the cameras. Cincinnati Enquirer, May 31, 2017, accessed June 24, 2018 .
  12. How the world fell in love with Fiona the hippo , WLWT . 22nd June 2017. 
  13. Kevin Tidmarsh: While Fighting The Odds, Fiona The Hippo Became A Social Media Star , NPR. July 24, 2017. 
  14. a b Ariel Scotti: Fiona the Hippo starring in her own show . In: New York Daily News , August 29, 2017. 
  15. ^ Cincinnati Zoo's Henry the Hippo euthanized following health struggle. In: October 31, 2017, accessed June 25, 2018 .
  16. Jenna Amatulli: Nothing Else Matters Today Because It's Fiona The Hippo's Birthday . January 24, 2018.
  17. a b Karin Brulliard: Happy birthday, Fiona the hippo! (Now please don't kill anyone.) , The Washington Post, Jan. 24, 2018
  18. Ultrasound Confirms Hippo Pregnancy! Cincinnati Zoo Blog, January 9, 2017, accessed July 8, 2018 .
  19. Shauna Steigerwald: Feeding Fiona: The science behind milking a hippo. Cincinnati Enquirer, March 17, 2017, accessed July 7, 2018 .
  20. ^ Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute: Animal Nutrition Science.Retrieved July 7, 2018
  21. ^ A b c Rachel Syme: Hooray for Fiona the Hippo, Our Bundle of Social-Media Joy. The New York Times , November 25, 2017, accessed June 25, 2018 .
  22. Thriving After Prematurity, Fiona The Celebrity Hippo Turns 1 , January 17, 2018
  23. ^ The Fiona Show , Facebook
  24. How cute is that? Internet star Fiona the Hippo photobombs marriage proposal. In: The West. October 26, 2017, accessed June 24, 2018 .
  25. #TeamFiona: How a baby hippo won over the world ,, July 17, 2017
  26. New Fiona Book by Cincinnati Zoo Director Thane Maynard Hits Stores on June 19. Cincinnati Zoo, June 15, 2018, accessed June 24, 2018 .
  27. WWF species lexicon: Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius (large hippopotamus), Hexaprotodon liberiensis (pygmy hippopotamus)) . Retrieved July 6, 2018
  28. Delaney Ross: Baby Pygmy Hippo Latest in Viral Video Craze: Does the Trend Help the Animals? . Boarding article from March 19, 2017 on (English); last accessed on July 6, 2018
  29. ^ Dan Sewell: Professor Fiona? Famed baby hippo an educational force. Cincinnati Enquirer, July 2, 2018, accessed July 21, 2018 .