The baby hippo born six weeks premature at Cincinnati Zoo took her first steps Sunday.
Handlers called the news “encouraging” because the calf had been exhibiting low energy and week suckling response.
Fiona, the first Nile hippo born at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden in 75 years, has been receiving critical care and feedings from staff since vets determined she was too weak to stand and nurse from her mom, 17-year-old Bibi, according to the zoo.
The ability to stay on her feet to nurse is a big factor animal care staff will weigh to determine when Fiona can be reunited with Bibi.
When she was born Jan. 24, the calf weighed just 29 pounds – about 25 pounds lighter than the lowest recorded birth weight. The normal birth weight for the species is 55-120 pounds.
The Nile hippo, also known as a river hippo or river horse, can grow to 4,000 pounds, on a vegetarian diet. Although hippos spend much of their day in the water, they actually can’t swim, but move by floating or walking along the water bottom, according to the zoo.
Donations can be made to help cover the cost of the round-the-clock critical care Fiona requires.