CINCINNATI, OH (September 2, 2021) — Fiona the world-famous hippo from the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden visited patients at neighboring Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center yesterday as part of a new collaborative effort to bring animals to kids who can’t come to the Zoo. Since Wild Wednesdays launched in May, the bi-weekly Zoom calls, hosted by Kevin Altimier and Whitney Osborne from Seacrest Studios, have included appearances from Rico the porcupine, Redd the cheetah, Lightning the sloth, and other amazing animals.
“All patients can access Wild Wednesdays through our in-hospital TV station (Channel 33) and interact with the keeper during the live Zoom call via our telehealth technology,” said Altimier, media specialist with Child Life & Integrative Care at Cincinnati Children’s. “It’s a great way to take kids’ minds off of being in the hospital.”
Before the pandemic, the Zoo brought animals to the hospital on occasion. Because of COVID protocols for patients, staff and animals, that is not happening right now. This alternative to in-person programming has the advantage of allowing more kids to enjoy the visit and to ask questions in a way that’s comfortable for them, via text, chat or phone. Since 1,700-pound Fiona and other larger animals would break the hospital elevators, a virtual visit provides a better way for them to get into the building!
David, a 12-year-old patient at Cincinnati Children’s, enjoyed learning new things about Fiona while undergoing dialysis treatment.
“I didn’t know hippos had tails!” David said. “It was really cool to learn!”
“Events like this helps pass the time while he’s on dialysis,” said Sheena, Kiernan’s mom. “He loves animals, and we appreciate it. It was a lot of fun!”
“We’re making our way around the Zoo so we can share stories about a variety of animals,” said Cincinnati Zoo Wild Wednesdays program manager Angela Hatke. “All of the Zookeepers want to be part of this program. They love to talk about the animals in their care and feel good about doing so with this particular audience.”
The Zoo has also adjusted the way it participates in the Creature Connection program. Instead of setting up home or Zoo visits for seriously ill patients of Cincinnati Children’s and its StarShine hospice care to bond with animals, the Wild Encounters team provides personalized video visits.