Photos: Baby Fritz makes his debut to the public
Two-week-old baby hippo, Fritz, is ready to meet the public. The Cincinnati Zoo surprised visitors to Hippo Cove Thursday morning by letting mom, Bibi, and the newborn explore the outdoor habitat while on view.
He'll be officially on exhibit starting Friday, but zoo officials aren't making any promises that visitors will get to see Fiona's baby brother. Bibi will dictate when she and the calf will be in the outdoor area and for how long.
Senior Africa Keeper Jenna Wingate says Fritz is doing well and weighs in at more than 114 pounds.
"As far as I can tell, Fritz is going above and beyond with milestones. He's nursing like a champ. He is very playful and interacting with keepers, which I expected him to stay far away and be nervous around us for like months, so that's definitely been very exciting for me," says Wingate. "He keeps gaining at least two to three pounds a day, which blows my mind."
She also thinks Fritz's name — determined by voters in an online poll — fits him very well.
"He just bops around ... and it just has a spunky vibe to it."
Fritz is doing well in the outdoor pool, Wingate adds. Bibi keeps an eye on him and controls which areas he can explore. Wingate says he has been to the deepest part of the pool and was able to successfully surface from the bottom to take a breath.
"That was one really important milestone that we were looking forward to seeing so we know he can be safe out here."
Fritz is expected to nurse for the first eight to 12 months. Wingate says he has been spotted tasting hay, lettuce, and other solid foods, though she isn't sure if he's actually ingesting any calories.
Tucker and Fiona haven't yet met Fritz, though they've been able to see, hear and smell him from afar.
"We're hoping to start introducing Fiona to Fritz in the next couple of weeks, and we'll do that at Bibi's pace — (if) she doesn't seem happy with it, we'll just kind of slow it down. But sometimes introductions are better if you don't wait too long.
"As far as Tucker goes, we want to make sure that Fritz is navigating the pool really well in case there was a sort of scuffle between Bibi and Tucker. We wouldn't want him to get caught in the middle and not be able to get to the surface or something," says Wingate.
Tucker does seem interested in Fritz, keepers report.
"He will sit and stare and stop eating breakfast some mornings and seems very interested in baby Fritz. Now there's a chance that Bibi could be putting off all sorts of hormones and that's what he's interested in, but it does seem that Tucker is actually taking more interest in Fritz than Fiona is."
To that end, Wingate notes Bibi is back on birth control and they've increased her dosage so there are no more surprise babies any time soon.
A final anecdote
Wingate shares this final humorous nugget about baby Fritz:
"I've walked in on Fritz twice now sitting in the adult hippos' drinking water. They have these giant water troughs that their heads fit in with extra room. So imagine a giant hippo head in ... like a three-by-three foot or four-by-four foot space, and Fritz now uses it as a baby pool.
"He'll climb in the drinker where they drink water from and just relax in it. It's very cute."