Thursday, February 15, 2018

Fiona and Tony - the world's cutest hippos for World Hippo Day

Here is Fiona yesterday,
 at just over a year old and about 700 pounds

Today, February 15, is World Hippo Day, a good time to visit 1 year old Fiona of the Cincinnati Zoo and four and a half month old Tony of the San Diego Zoo. Tony was born September 22, 2017. Some have suggested that Fiona and Tony would make a cute couple when they grow up. What a lovely idea.

Tony and his mom Funani in San Diego

Tony and his mother Funani in San Diego a month ago
when Tony was four months old

Fiona, who became a world sensation since her birth, just celebrated her first birthday  on January 24 with a party at Hippo Cove. Many of the other animals at the Cincinnati Zoo got treats in honor of her birthday. Her fans gathered in front of her pool to sing Happy Birthday to this special little miracle who made hippo history this past year.

Mother Bibi, with Fiona's birthday flags at Hippo Cove, the Cincinnati Zoo.
On Fiona's birthday, the keepers in both zoos had a public social media event, where they streamed video from in indoor quarters of the hippos in both zoos, and chatted about hippos and these particular special youngsters.

Fiona was 6 weeks premature when she was born, and weighed only 29 pounds. 
Fiona has many devoted fans around the world,
 and loves to interact with her visitors. She is a Diva.

Tony, a normal hippo baby, weighed 70 pounds, just to give you an idea of how precarious Fiona's life was in those early days at only 29 pounds. Thanks to the round the clock care of her keepers, and some intervention from the local Children's Hospital, Fiona became the first premature hippo to live to grow up. 

Fiona plays with her papa Henry

Fiona was raised by humans in those early months, drinking from a bottle of specially formulated milk and playing in indoor pools accompanied by her keepers as she learned the hippo skills she would need in life. All this time, Fiona was near her parents, Bibi and Henry, and could see, hear and smell them. Eventually, she was allowed to interact with them, and finally, to gradually reunite with her parents.

Fiona was reunited with her mother and father, Bibi and Henry

Fiona spent family time in the pool with her mother Bibi, and a little later her father Henry.  By the time Fiona was six months old, the three of them would nap together, with her parents on both sides to protect her. During playtime, she would climb into her mother's and her father's mouths to explore and get to know them. It was a blissful summer for this hippo family.

Henry and Fiona

Bibi and Henry were devoted to each other, and sometimes ignored Fiona to focus on each other. Fiona seemed to enjoy being around her father too. Sadly, the elderly Henry passed away October 31, so now it is just Fiona and her mother in Hippo Cove. 

Funani and Tony

Tony's life has been very different from Fiona's. Tony is Funani's 12th calf, and is never far from his mother, but he doesn't spend any time at all with his father Otis.

Tony in San Diego is pinned under his mother to keep him from wandering away during naptime. He can still reach his nose up to the surface to get air.

Tony was born at the edge of the large pool, and was introduced to the water almost immediately. The pool has a shallow area where Funani and Tony can sleep underwater, and Tony can be close to the surface to be pushed up for air. His mom pins him down with her chin during naps so he can't wander away, but he can still reach his nose up to breathe. This is the same way a wild mother hippo would keep her baby from drifting away in a river current.

Tony and his mom

It is interesting to watch Funani's hippo mothering skills with Tony. She will push him along with her nose, and roll him sometimes, to keep him moving. She will maneuver her baby to a high spot so he can reach up to get air. At age 4 months, he needs to come up for air about every couple of minutes. Adult hippos stay under for five minutes or more, and can stay under even longer if needed. Because Fiona was raised indoors by her keepers,  we didn't see her at this stage except in the many photos and videos, where she would be playing with colorful toys and cardboard boxes, learning new tricks in the indoor pools, and frolicking in the shower.

Funoni rolls Tony to get him going in the right direction

The San Diego Zoo keeps the father hippo separate from mother and baby. So Otis meets the public on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, while Funani and Tony are in the large pool on Tuesday, Thursday and the weekend.

Funani opens her mouth wide, as hippos often do. They can open their mouths up to 150 degrees.
Keepers and regular visitors have noticed that Tony is a fearless little guy. Funani's most recent calf would hide from the public when he was small, but Tony has never been afraid to show his face to his fans.

Tony is fearless

Tony is not afraid of anything
The San Diego Zoo offers a gigantic pool area for the hippos, 150,000 gallons. The Cincinnati Zoo Hippo Cove pool is 70,000 gallons. Both hippo exhibits offer great underwater viewing of the resident animals.

Funani and Tony, her 12th baby at the San Diego Zoo.
 The water is full of floating hay pieces that the hippos have eaten and passed through their bodies.  An adult hippo produces 400 pounds of poop every day. The water is cleaned by water filters and by the Tilapia (fish) that clean the water by eating all that floating semi-processed hay.

And how much do these hippos weigh? I am told that Bibi weighs 3500 pounds, and Funani probably weighs about the same.

Funoni and little Tony

Fiona is somewhere between 650 and 700 pounds now, and she looks pretty hefty, until you see her next to her mom, and then she still looks small.

Fiona out of the water yesterday.

Tony weighed about 250 pounds when he was four months old, maybe closer to 300 now that he is approaching his fifth month. He is not weighed often. Fiona was weighed daily to make sure she was gaining weight properly.

Here's a video of Tony being moved around by his mother. Click on link below.

Video of Tony at the San Diego Zoo

Little Tony and his mom
Tony photobombs his mom

And Fiona knows how to photobomb her mom too.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Valentines Day at the Cincinnati Zoo

Is Anana dreaming of getting to know Little One a little better?

It has been well over a year since Anana came to live with Little One at the Cincinnati Zoo, and it has been a rocky road to love. But now, after a year of hissing and growling and grufting at each other, There are signs of amiability, even friendship.

The keepers (and everyone else) are hoping for a love match between the two, which might result in cubs. Little One and Anana are related to very few of the other zoo bears, and as such, their genes are especially valuable.

In addition, 17 year old Anana has proven fertility, She has a five year old daughter named Luna living in Buffalo. Little One has never fathered a cub. At age 28, he needs to get busy with that.  

The zoo has volunteers who sit by the polar bears, writing down all the bears' activities on clip boards. They are researching the road to romance for this pair, and so far, this year looks hopeful. Breeding season is just beginning. Last spring, these two bears were very unfriendly. This year, things have improved.

I have been told that in Buffalo, Anana was slow to warm to Nanuq, an older bear who eventually fathered Luna. Maybe Anana just takes awhile to get to know a new suitor.

Here is what I found when I visited Anana and Little One today, Valentine's Day, a good day for romance.

Anana gives Little One a friendly kiss

Anana runs away, while Little One looks on admiringly

The two bears take turns pursuing each other.
Little One submits, while Anana nuzzles him

Little One smiles at Anana's friendliness

They take turns with the rolly toy Here, Anana plays.

Taking turns sniffing

Looking at the papparazzi.

A little love bite

Little One looks longingly at Anana

Little One sniffs Anana here

And sniffs Anana there

Happy Bears at last

Friday, January 26, 2018

Hope's new adventure

Hope in front, and her mother Flocke, behind
For a polar bear cub born on the French Riviera, a move to snowy Sweden has to be quite a change, but Hope is up for a new adventure. Hope is now three years old, and it is time to move on. She has just moved to Orsa Bear Park, which is said to be a paradise for polar bears, and is reported to be happily rolling in the snow on her first day out yesterday. Hope was accompanied by a familiar keeper who will help her adjust to her new environment.

Hope at 5 months old
Hope was born November 25, 2014, when Flocke was almost 7 years old.  Because Flocke had been hand raised by her keepers in Nuremburg Tiergarten in Germany, some worried that she might not know how to be a good polar bear mother, but her instincts have been perfect as she guided her daughter to independence. 

Flocke and Hope swimming

Hope, the three year old daughter of Flocke and Rasputin, had stayed with her mother past her third birthday. Usually, mother bears become impatient with their young ones at the age of 2 or 2 1/2 and sometimes even younger, but Flocke has been very patient with Hope, treasuring the time with her. 

Hope nuzzles her mother
But it is time for Flocke to be reunited with her beloved Raspi, and time for grown up Hope to be on her own, as in nature.

Hope and Flocke in the mother-cub area playing follow the leader
Rasputin is the same age as Flocke, and was born in Moscow, but came to Nuremburg when he was 11 months old as a companion to Flocke. They have been together ever since, moving to a brand new state of the art polar bear environment in Marineland in Antibes, France, in 2010.

Raspi, Raspoutine, Rasputin

Flocke and Hope shared living space for three years, rotating between the upper and lower enclosure at Marineland, while father Rasputin lived in his own in a separate but nearby enclosure. 

Hope swimming and playing as her fans watch

Hope on the left, Raspi on the right.
There are communication holes in the walls between the pools.

Raspi could see, hear and smell his daughter through holes between the upper enclosures, and they always were very interested in each other. When Hope was in the lower enclosure, he could hike down into a trench to see her through the separating grid upon occasion.

Raspi on the other side of the grid visits with his daughter Hope
Marineland has three polar bear living areas, two with large pools, and one designed for a mother and cubs with a small pool. There are also two ice grottoes with ice machines manufacturing cold white stuff to keep the bears cool.

Hope rolling in the snow in the ice cave

Since Marineland has three enclosures, there was always the option of putting Hope into her own space if Flocke indicated she was tired of mothering. Instead, the separation will be much further, as Hope has moved this week to Orsa Bear Park in Sweden, where she will have acres of snow, lots of trees and ponds, and the Northern Lights, in a very natural setting for polar bears, even though polar bears are not native to Sweden.

Hope has always enjoyed lots of toys.
She probably won't have them in the natural bear park.
 Instead, she will have lots of space and natural activities.

Hope and a favorite blue ball at Marineland

Another ball for Hope

 Hope will spend her days sliding down snowing hills and rolling in snowbanks. In the summer, she can roam the woodlands, swim in the pond and roll in the dirt. Since Orsa is a natural park, she probably won't have the toys and balls that she enjoyed so much as she was growing up. Instead she will have many natural activities for a grown up polar bear. 

I have not been to Orsa, but the photos and maps are impressive, and those who have seen it say that it is the perfect place for a polar bear. Orsa Grönnklitt is large and natural and the animals live in forested areas with varied terrain. It is Europe's largest predator park. 

There she will join two older bears: 10 year old Wilbär, who was born in Stuttgart, Germany, and 12 year old Ewa, one of Huggies' triplets from the Netherlands.

Hope and her crazy egg
Hope and her water toys

Hope and her mother Flocke
 Best of luck, little Hope, in your new home with your new friends. You are indeed a lucky bear to be living in such a wonderful park. And your parents will be happy to be back together again.