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.

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