Fiona’s continued weight gain means that she’s on the right track towards meeting her parents, but it also poses a problem for her care staff. She’s becoming too heavy for them to lift her in and out of her pool.
Her caretakers are helping Fiona learn how to use a ramp. At first the baby hippo was slightly apprehensive, but after a few tries she’s taking to it like a natural.
As Fiona’s health improves, Cincinnati Zoo hippo handler Wendy Rice said in a blog post she expects the calf to be introduced back to her parents, Henry and Bibi, within the next few weeks.
The trio will be placed in adjacent enclosures so they can see, smell and adjust to one another without the risk of little Fiona being accidentally injured or becoming sick, according to the zoo.
PHOTOS: Fiona the baby hippo
However, even once she starts getting to know mom and dad, it’ll be a while before she’s able to join them permanently.
Normally, Rice wrote, a mother hippo and her new baby will spend around 10-12 days away from the rest of the herd in order to bond with one another after the birth.
Fiona — who was born at least six weeks premature — was too small and sick to spend this period with Bibi, so it’s possible they will not recognize one another as family members, the zoo said.
“Instead,” Rice wrote, “(Fiona) may be viewed as just a new female hippo joining the group.”
WATCH: Fiona takes her first steps
The good news is that neither male nor female hippos are known for being territorial toward other females, so even if Fiona’s parents only perceive her as an adorable stranger, the zoo said it expects them to accept her into the herd without problems.
“As with all things Fiona, this timeline will not likely be set by any calendar dates,” Rice wrote. “Instead it is much more important that we allow Fiona’s health and physical abilities to set the pace in order to give her the best chance possible at a normal, happy and healthy hippo life.”
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This article contains reporting by Journal-News media partner WCPO.