Cincinnati Zoo confirms Fiona is getting a sibling. Bibi the hippo is pregnant
The Cincinnati Zoo is making it official — Fiona is getting a sibling. Bibi the hippo is pregnant.
"The hippo team is excited and also nervous," says Eric Byrd, manager of Cincinnati Zoo's Africa team in a statement. "As most people know, Bibi's first baby, Fiona, was born six weeks premature and wouldn't have survived without the intervention of her human caregivers. We are hoping for a full-term pregnancy and will be doing everything we can to support Bibi."
The zoo estimates Bibi is about four months pregnant, meaning her expected due date would be somewhere around mid-August.
Jenna Wingate, Africa senior keeper, says the team keeps track of Bibi's cycle, which, similar to humans, occurs about every 28 days. Recently she noticed no one had made any notes about it in several months.
"Just within the last two weeks or so we decided to do an ultrasound and... there it was. We were not expecting it — it was not something we have known for long at all."
Fiona was born in January, 2017. Father-to-be Tucker joined the Cincinnati bloat in September, 2021. The 18-year-old hippo (he'll be 19 in May) came to Cincinnati from San Francisco where he'd been living alone.
Keepers say they weren't planning for Bibi to become pregnant quite so soon.
"But nature found a way and ignored our calendar,” says Christina Gorsuch, director of animal care. "Most forms of contraception, in hippos or humans, is not 100% reliable. The dose that was previously effective for Bibi did not prevent pregnancy this time."
"Reproductive physiologists at the zoo's Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) are working with the hippo team and have started Bibi on hormone supplements. They will also perform regular ultrasounds to monitor the growth and health of the fetus," the statement says.
Bibi is expected to stay on display during her pregnancy. Wingate says the zoo would know what to do if Bibi were to go into labor early like she did with Fiona.
"We have all of the notes, all of the experience we had with Fiona and we will use all of our knowledge from that. We know exactly what her formula needs to look like and how to run everything. I think it would go a lot more smoothly, but we are really hoping that that's not the case this time. We would just have everything lined up ahead of time to make sure that we have the staffing and equipment needed."
After Fiona's birth, zookeepers learned to milk Bibi and sent her milk to the Smithsonian Milk Repository, where it was analyzed in order to create baby hippo formula. Wingate says the Cincinnati Zoo also has more than 500 pages of notes for the first 11 months of Fiona's life.
How does this happen so unexpectedly?
Some people might wonder how zookeepers could miss two giant hippos mating. Wingate says the keepers don't have eyes on the animals at every moment, so it could be easy to miss them mating.
"With animals, often if they do the deed it's because an animal is cycling and they stop as soon as the animal is pregnant. That's not for all species... but the chances are they could have bred once or a few times throughout one day and if we didn't happen to walk by and see it, then there's a good chance it can go unnoticed," says Wingate. "Especially in the winter, if there aren't a ton of guests here but the hippos are outside, we don't even have a guest who can report it to us either."
The zoo teased the big news on Facebook a day before the announcement, writing "Happy National Siblings Day."
Hours before confirming the news, the zoo followed up the Siblings Day post with an image of four watermelons - a favorite hippo treat - with the words, "We're gonna need more watermelon."