Cincinnati Zoo preps for premature hippo's eventual transition from humans

Fiona was born six weeks premature. Zoo staff is now preparing her for transition away from human care. (Cincinnati Zoo)

Given Fiona's improved health and rapid growth, it's becoming more of a reality that she'll return to the hippo bloat at some point.

The Cincinnati Zoo said the premature hippo is learning to be more independent and spending less time physically touching her human caregivers.

While hippos are gregarious, they're not necessarily social. The zoo said they do live with each other in groups, but don't form significant social bonds, except between mothers and daughters.

Since Fiona had to be removed from her mother's care since she was born six weeks premature, one of her caretakers said she has formed social bonds with care staff instead. She added her positive interaction with humans shouldn't impact how she behaves with hippos.

Some of the concerns that will present themselves are normal actions for hippos, like playing, letting others know when they need their space, and sleeping. The staff said hippo calves tend to climb on their mothers back for a safe place to sleep. Since Fiona already weighs more than 100 pounds that will only become more problematic.

The staff said they'll have to transition her into protected contact when she reaches a certain size, meaning they won't be directly exposed to her, like her parents Henry and Bibi, as well as the rest of the hippos.

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