Stop asking Bibi if she's had that baby yet - you'll know when she does
Baby watch 2022 is in full swing as the Cincinnati Zoo anticipates the arrival of a hippo sibling for Fiona. Bibi's official due date was estimated at Aug. 15 but she is considered to be at full term as of mid-July.
Jenna Wingate, senior Africa keeper, says Bibi continues to act normally and is doing well, though she has shown a few signs that her labor could be approaching.
"Once in a while, we will notice that she prefers to be alone and doesn't want Fiona in her space quite as much, and definitely she's let Tucker know, too," Wingate says. "He could be doing nothing and she might give him a little words that tell him that she would like him out of her space. Otherwise she's eating and sleeping as usual —participating in all of her tours and greeting guests. So we haven't seen any signs that show us or make us think that she might be super close."
Keepers are housing Bibi separately from Tucker and Fiona at night, though, just in case. Wingate says Bibi has shown signs that she'd rather sleep alone, which she explains is normal for pregnant hippos in the wild. The three are separated by a gate so they can remain close.
While Fiona famously came early, Bibi has passed the window for a pre-term birth. Wingate says staff would likely try to induce Bibi in the event the second baby weren't to come naturally by the mid-August date.
A host of volunteers are helping the zoo staff monitor Bibi 24 hours per day.
"We have volunteers that are watching in four hour shifts, and they can do it from home remotely on their computers or come to the zoo if they choose," Wingate explains. "They just leave notes for us in a Google document and keep us up to date. And of course, we can go back and review the footage also."
Staff can also monitor Bibi from home.
Wingate swears the zoo isn't keeping the sex of the Bibi's calf a secret. She says it's much too hard to see anything on an ultrasound, especially since male hippo genitalia is internal, and their tails cover their sex organs.
"I promise we do not know the gender and we have not come up with any names yet. We aren't even entirely sure who will get to name the baby," she says. "No names yet, but once we find out the gender and the baby's here and healthy, I think that'll be a big deal ... but now we're just obsessing about when it's going to show up."
It could be a while for keepers to determine the baby's sex after it's born, too.
"Depending on how Bibi acts ... it could be within the hour it's born or it could be a couple of days to a couple of weeks before we're even able to 100% confirm the gender. If Bibi allows, we'll probably do a quick neonatal check, but if she's anything like we've heard most hippo moms are with this full term cow, there's a chance there's no way we'll get hands on the baby anytime soon."
Wingate says the zoo has space for four hippos, so the calf will stay here for a while. Ultimately because of breeding concerns and potentially territory issues if the calf is a boy, the calf will likely be moved to a new home in two to five years, she estimates.