A surprising hippo pregnancy? Hippopotamus at Cincinnati Zoo welcomes baby despite being on birth control

Bibi, a hippopotamus, gave birth on August 3 at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden (Photo: Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden)

Collective “awwws” can be heard around the world as the hippo’s most famous family welcomed a baby calf at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. Until the 60-pound bundle of joy arrived, the zoo’s famous bloat—a term for a group of hippos inspired by their bloated bellies—was comprised of mom, 23-year-old Bibi, daughter, 5-year-old Fiona, and five-year-old Fiona. Tucker, 19, who joined the group in 2021. The mother and newborn are healthy and sound, shares the zoo.

When Fiona was born prematurely, the adorable family was brought to the global arena for the first time – and won over the hearts of many. Fortunately, she survived, thanks to the intervention of human caregivers, and is now enjoying a healthy adolescence. The family’s newest bundle of joy, which has yet to be named, weighs at least 60 pounds and is already on the move.

The zoo has yet to release the name of the newborn hippopotamus. (Photo: Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden)

The zoo first learned of the pregnancy around April Fools’ Day and initially thought it was a timely joke because Mother Bibi was on birth control – but Mother Nature had other plans. A healthy, full-term baby hippo arrived late in the evening of August 3, further confirming that it was really no joke.

Christina Gorsuch, animal care director of the Cincinnati Zoo, said: “This calf seems huge to us because Bibi’s first baby, Fiona, weighed only 29 pounds when she was born six weeks ago and couldn’t stand on her own ” in a press release. “This new calf weighs at least twice as much as Fiona and is already running.”

At the time of the press release, Gorsuch shared that they were unsure whether Bibi was nursing because of the water contamination in the hippopotamus habitat. “This is Bibi’s first time nursing, as Fiona had to be cared for by the staff, so we’re keeping a close eye on her to make sure we don’t have to step into it,” she explained.

A later post on the zoo’s Instagram account stated that the nursing was doing well. “The newborn hippo spent most of the day with Bibi in the indoor pool, combing, resting and nursing, which is exactly what the Hippo Care team was expecting,” the post said. “Hippos spend most of their lives in water and hippo calves even nurse underwater.”

The healthy pregnancy was a sigh of relief for the zoo staff as Fiona was born six weeks early and was too weak to reach Bibi for nursing. For this pregnancy, Bibi received ongoing hormone supplements and regular ultrasounds to monitor the growth and health of the calf.

Bibi and her baby will spend the next few weeks behind the scenes as 19-year-old brother, Tucker, and 5-year-old sister, Fiona, await the meeting of their new brother. The zoo shared that the sibling pair are so comfortable with each other that 2000-pound Fiona is often seen snuggling up on a 4500-pound Tucker.

For now, mom and baby will be hidden from the public, but Tucker and Fiona will appear in their usual outdoor accommodations.

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