Zoo using experience with premature babies for newest hippo

    Hippo baby making progress; zoo has experience with premature babies (Cincinnati Zoo)

    CINCINNATI (WKRC) - The Cincinnati Zoo's baby hippo was making real progress.

    The female Nile hippopotamus was born 6-weeks early and was so premature she didn't know how to swim or nurse from her mother, Bibi. But she was in capable hands that were giving her round-the-clock care.

    The new baby hippo at the zoo was making progress. She was three pounds over her birth weight and had an appetite. She can't yet stand to suckle so keepers were milking her mother and giving the newborn a hand.

    Curator of mammals for the Cincinnati Zoo, Christina Gorsuch, said Friday, January 27, "This morning she took a few suckles from a bottle which was a great sign. One of the mile markers we need her to achieve is to be able to feed herself. To be able to nurse from a bottle." Gorsuch continued, "She's had her pool time increased. We got her some pool noodles that she now floats on to help her get her feet under her."

    Zoo officials were cautiously optimistic she would make it. It had been 90 years since a hippo born that premature survived to adulthood. The zoo has experience with preemies like Willow the cheetah and her litter mates.

    Dawn Strasser, head keeper of nursery and quarantine at the Cincinnati Zoo, said, "I've personally dealt with several different preemie babies. Preemie Okapi, Eland, cheetahs. So some of those you kind of learn along the way they have common characteristics."

    Their efforts were saving animals of species that need some help. 100 years ago there were 100,000 cheetahs. In January 2017 there were about 5,000. Hippos were struggling in captivity. In zoos, the sustainability of the population was in question. There was only about 80 hippos and few births.

    The new baby hippo was Cincinnati's first hippo baby in 75 years. It was an honest-to-goodness hippo love story. The baby's father, 35-year-old Henry, lived alone in a Springfield, Missouri zoo for 20 years after his first mate died. In the summer of 2016, he came to Cincinnati to live with 17-year-old Bibi and it was love at first sight.

    Zoo keepers were working hard to keep the baby hippo warm and wet. She's being kept in a room that's 95 degrees.

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