Monday, July 31, 2023

Fritz the Hippo's first year

 Photos and story by Molly Merrow (of course)

Here comes Fritz (age 3 months)

Welcome to Fritz's birthday week! The Cincinnati Zoo will have special treats for all the animals on Thursday, in honor of Fritz's first birthday.

How hard is it to be the little brother of the most famous hippo in the world? You would have to be very brave and bold, not to mention sassy, but Baby Fritz certainly can hold his own in this hippo family at Hippo Cove at the Cincinnati Zoo.  

He was born on August 3 of 2022, accompanied by much anticipation and excitement. The fans of the famous Fiona were following Bibi's pregnancy day by day, anxious to meet the new family member. Would it be a girl or a boy? Would it be full term? How would Fiona react? How long until the whole family could be seen together in the pool? And a name for the little one, to go with Fiona?

He arrived right on time, healthy and weighing what a normal baby hippo should weigh. Big sister Fiona, now six years old, had come prematurely and weighed only 29 pounds, while a normal baby hippo would weight 50 to 100 pounds. Fiona made history by her upbringing by human keepers, who even brought in some vascular experts from the nearby Children's Hospital when Fiona needed IV's. Fiona's precarious journey was shared day by day by the zoo on social media, and Fiona became a worldwide sensation. She was eventually able to rejoin her mother Bibi and father Henry. Sadly, Henry passed away a few months after the bloat was reunited, but at least she got to know her daddy.

Bibi and her calf remained behind the scenes for several weeks, bonding. The zoo announced the baby's name when he was two weeks old. He was dubbed Fritz.

After a few weeks, Bibi and Fritz started to spend a little time in the outdoor habitat, away from Fiona and Fritz's dad Tucker. 

Fritz at 3 weeks, with his mom Bibi.

Fritz at 3 weeks, quite well protected by his mom.

Tiny Fritz, 3 weeks old.

Fritz at 3 months and Bibi at window

When Fritz was three weeks old, Fritz and Fiona met for just a few minutes. That time was increased gradually until Mother Bibi was comfortable with her two children being together. 

Little Fritz with mom and big sister.

                        Baby Fritz, giving some sass to big sister Fiona

                                    Fritz with mom and big sister.

Fritz poses for his portrait.

Fritz had no fear, even when he was tiny

On October 13, dad Tucker was allowed to join the bloat for short periods, gradually to increase until the whole family was always out together. The following photos were taken in January, when Fritz was five months old.

                                  Fritz blowing bubbles next to Tucker.

                          Fritz is fascinated by Tucker's huge mouth.

            It looks like Tucker is giving some fatherly advice to his son.

Fritz has kisses for Dad

Blowing more bubbles with Dad Tucker

                                      Bibi kisses her little son Fritz

                                                Baby Fritz playing with the fishies.

           And here's the whole family, Tucker, Fiona, Fritz and Bibi.

Fritz is a fun loving little boy, often called Tater Tot, or just Tot. Maybe because he looked like a potato when he was little?

At Bibi's birthday party in February, everyone got some treats. Here's Fritz, Bibi and Fiona at the wall with keeper Jenna.

            Bibi and the kids were at the wall begging for party treats, 
                   but Tucker was a gentleman and stayed back. 

Fritz in April at age 7 1/2 months. Clever and always up to something.

Fiona may be an international celebrity, and certainly people have been coming from all over the world to see her since she made her debut, but the arrival of Fritz has only energized her fan base. Fiona may not be the tiny little baby she was in those early years, but she is still very cute and now a proud big sister of this remarkable baby brother.

The fans just keep coming. Fiona is even more popular than before, sharing the love with her family: her mom Bibi, her step-father Tucker, and now baby brother Fritz.

Fritz and the fishies in late July 2023.

Fritz with his dad Tucker, late July 2023

Fritz is popular with the kids

Fritz, so very cute, and almost a year old.

Fritz and his fish friends - end of July 2023

Nobody puts baby in the corner,
 unless baby is after a piece of lettuce.

Snack time and Fritz, Fiona and Bibi line up.
Tucker stays back and waits for his treats to be thrown.

Sometimes Fritz is a messy eater.

Tucker and son.

So tall...

It's been a big year in the life of a little hippo. He's learned to be an important part of the bloat. He's still nursing but he's gain some independence from mom, and bonded with dad and big sister. 

There have been some not-so-fun times when Tucker pooped on Fritz's head, probably not on purpose, but at least there is a pool nearby to clean up. But mostly fun times chasing Fiona around, biting his dad on the back end, biting his sister on her ear, biting everything in sight because it is fun.

A typical Fritz love bite.

And learning barrel rolls, even if Tucker gets in the way....
Fritz and his barrel rolls....

It's always fun to hitch a ride on dad too.

Getting a free ride.

And then there were the birthday parties, where he got to have a few bites of Fiona's cake in January, and everyone got to share in Bibi's cake in February. Even if Fritz was mostly too young to eat a lot of solid food then.

At Bibi's party, Jenna gives Bibi some lettuce,
 and Fritz hangs around with Fiona.

It has been a big year for Fritz. And more to come in his second year. Everyone is looking forward to a big party on Thursday, August 3. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Matilda the Hippo is turning two!


Matilda chases the sun.

Matilda, the Nile Hippo baby of the ABQ Biopark in Albuquerque, New Mexico, will celebrate her second birthday on July 19, 2023. 

Matilda and her glowing sun.

Matilda is the third offspring of parents Karen and Moe at the Biopark. 

Moe, Matilda and Karen at snack time.

Karen and Moe's first baby was a little girl named Boopie, now going by the name of Biopelo, who is in Dallas now and is mother of a little hippo girl named Adanna born in May of 2019, and another born October 30 2022, named Kalo.

Their second baby, born in 2015, was named Brynn, until he moved to San Antonio Zoo to be with Karen's mother Uma, who is his grandmother, and now he goes by Timothy. This young hippo is well known for carrying a torch for the famous little hippo girl in Cincinnati, Fiona, sending her cute facebook messages and sometimes even gifts, like fruit baskets.

Karen's late father Tumbo (Biopelo, Matilda and Timothy's grandfather) was featured on the cover of National Geographic in 2016 as the hippo photographed at San Antonio Zoo by Joel Santore for his well known Photo Ark.  Tumbo was 41 when he was photographed. 

I visited Matilda, Karen and Moe at the end of June in 2022, at the ABQ Biopark, and found her playing with her big green ball. She loved to roll it around, push it through the water, and try to bite it. Her mom Karen played with the ball too. 

Matilda and her mum Karen in 2022

I had the chance to catch up with the ABQ hippo family in May of this year, and found Matilda much grown, but still loving to play with balls.

                   Matilda never gets tired of playing with her ball.

There is no underwater viewing in the hippo area, but the hippos have a large pool with several beaches, and a rustic  bridge to swim and hide under.

                        The view from the bridge. This is where Matilda lives.

Karen and Matilda play with the ball under the bridge in May of 2023.                                        The green ball is still around.

Moe mostly just chills out in the water, while Matilda splashes around with her big yellow ball, and Karen likes to join in with her daughter at times.

But Moe wakes up and joins the fun when it is snack time.

Look what I just ate, says Matilda.

                  Mama Karen gets a mouthful, and Matilda waits her turn. 
                        Papa Moe, on the left, is always ready for another bite.

Snack time is at 2 p.m. every day, and the three hippos line up for a good dose of fruits and vegetables, with Moe on the left, Karen on the right, and Matilda in between, making sure she gets her share.

                                                       Matilda hoping for more.

Moe keeps his mouth open most of the time, hoping for the most treats. His cavernous mouth is a pretty easy target to throw the veggies into.

                            Matilda is in the middle, best spot.

You can get very close to the hippos if you gather along the fence, but you also get a great view of the feeding from the bridge.

                                         There is plenty for Matilda too.

                  Feeding Matilda. The keepers make sure she is not left out.

          Last of the lettuce. The keeper dumps the rest over the hippo family. 

                     Matilda wearing her lunch, after the lettuce dump.

And then it is time to play with the ball again. Matilda does not get the ball every day.  

                                        Matilda is always mouthing the ball.

Matilda likes to fit the ball into her mouth, often pressing it up against the bridge foundation or rocks. It isn't going to fit but it is still fun to try.

                                                                     Open wide. 

Matilda was not planned. Karen's birth control failed, just as with Bibi in Cincinnati, who is now mother of one year old Fritz, as well as the famous Fiona. The keepers say that there are no plans for Matilda to move. 

                             Karen joins her daughter in playing ball. 

                                      Matilda making some funny faces.