A hippo baby is receiving critical care from staff at Cincinnati Zoo after she was born six weeks early.
The calf, who was not expected until March, is the first Nile hippo to be born at Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden in 75 years. The baby’s mother, a 17-year-old hippo named Bibi, gave birth to the calf early Tuesday.
“She looks like a normal calf but is very, very small. Her heart and lungs sound good and she is pretty responsive to stimuli, but we aren’t sure how developed her muscles and brain are,” said Christina Gorsuch, curator of mammals at the Cincinnati Zoo, in a statement. “Her little system is underdeveloped, and getting her to a healthy weight will be a challenge. Vets and animal staff are doing everything they can to get her through this critical time.”
The as-yet-unnamed baby weighs 29 pounds, which is about 25 pounds lighter than the lowest recorded birth weight for the species. The normal range for a Nile hippo baby is 55 to 120 pounds, according to the Cincinnati Zoo.
The calf is not able to stand to nurse from her mother so zoo staff are giving her fluids and keeping her moist and warm.
Zoo keepers were able to collect milk from Bibi as she was going into labor. “We’re hoping to get the baby to drink Bibi’s milk and other supplements from a bottle,” said Gorsuch. “We’ll continue to milk Bibi so we can provide these important nutrients to the baby and also stimulate production so she’s ready to nurse when the baby is strong enough to be back with mom.”
Staff at Cincinnati Zoo are now providing round-the-clock intensive care for the hippo baby.