Happy First Birthday to Fiona! Posted January 17, 2018Hippo-sized celebration is happening at the Cincinnati Zoo this Saturday Cincinnati, OH (January 17, 2018)— Cincinnati’s favorite baby hippo will be one year old on January 24! This is a major milestone for the preemie that almost didn’t make it, and the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is throwing a party, a few days before her actual birthday, to celebrate. Join us at the Zoo on Saturday, January 20, from 10am – 3pm for Fiona’s First Birthday Celebration presented by Hippo Sak. Activities include (click here for a more detailed list): First 2,000 families get a hippo bath mat* See other animals get special enrichment in Fiona goody bags Get a Fiona postcard stamped with her footprint* Sign Fiona’s birthday card from 10am – 3pm at Hippo Cove Busken cake and cookies from 1pm – 3pm* Graeter’s ice cream from 1pm– 3pm* Hippo care team members Q&A from 1pm – 1:30pm and 2pm – 2:30pm Hippo-themed activities in Education Center from 12pm – 3pm Cincy Shirts will be passing out Fiona temporary tattoos from 12:30pm – 3pm Specialists from Cincinnati Children’s who helped save Fiona will be here from 11am – 1pm Authors of Fiona books will be available to sign books from 11am – 1pm at the Zoo’s Gift Shop (bring your book or buy them at the Zoo) *While supplies last The party is free with Zoo admission, which is half price now – March 9! The guest of honor may or may not make an appearance during her party. It needs to be 50 degrees or above for Fiona to go outside, but there will be lots of hippo-themed fun whether she’s in or out. Make sure to wear your #TeamFiona gear and post your celebration photos to Instagram, Twitter or Facebook with #FionasFirst and #TeamFiona for a chance to win a hippo kiss painting by Fiona! Fiona weighed 29 pounds when she was born, which is about 25 pounds lighter than the lowest recorded birth weight for this species. The normal range is 55-120 pounds. Today she weighs more than 650 pounds and could grow to by five times that size! She has become an ambassador for Fiona the Hippo Ambassador Fiona has raised awareness and interest in hippos. She’s an ambassador for her species and a great example of why zoos exist. She survived because of the animal care team’s tireless efforts to save her and has inspired so many to care about her species and wildlife, which is Cincinnati Zoo’s mission. Interest in the Nile hippo and protecting its habitat in Africa benefits all species, many critically endangered, that share their ecosystem. “Hippos are ‘ecosystem engineers’, meaning they shape the environment around them. They create grazing areas that act as connection between land and water habitats and bring nutrients and microorganisms into the water from the land and vice versa as they travel between the two,” said Dr. Jessye Wotjusik, a scientist with Cincinnati Zoo’s Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) and person who saw the first image of Fiona (first ever ultrasound image of a Nile hippo). “They’re also indicator species and can provide us with an idea of how changes in climate may be impacting their ecosystem and other animal populations. For example, if a population of hippos die off due to lack of water this is indicative that such drought conditions may not be normal for that region and also that many other species are likely suffering,” said Wojtusik. While not considered endangered, wild populations are currently declining due to habitat loss and degradation, increased incidence of drought, and some poaching. Increased drought and less rainfall means there is less grazing areas for hippos to rely on for food. They will travel upwards of 35km in one night to find food, but the larger issue is that by having to search for food or water, there is a much greater chance of conflict with people/livestock, especially since the human population is increasing.