Fiona’s Bloat Buys a Boat for Ugandan Hippos in Crisis

Posted September 15, 2023 by Wendy Rice

Fiona and her bloat-mates have had a huge impact within our Cincinnati and zoo community and on her wild hippo counterparts. Her influence as an ambassador has raised awareness for her species and helped us raise funds to support conservation efforts in Africa.

Fifty percent of all proceeds from the “Hanging with Hippos” behind-the-scenes tours go to conservation projects selected by the hippo conservation team, including myself. The funds that we’ve raised are used to make a tangible difference for hippos in Uganda. Our bloat is funding a boat for rangers trying to protect hippos.

These linked articles from National Geographic and The Guardian describe some of the conservation effort challenges in Uganda.

Our partners at the Uganda Conservation Foundation (UCF) told us that their biggest need was a patrol boat.

According to Michael Keigwin, founder of UCF, the last 4 years have been increasingly challenging. “A drought in the country, subsequent flooding, and earlier pandemic lockdowns have all strained local farming economies and other businesses, driving more people to poach…” with deadly consequences not only to the wildlife, but to the rangers who attempt to protect it.

UCF has lost 2 rangers in the line of duty just in the past year and paltry though it is in comparison to the loss of human life, a $25,000 boat, the most vital piece of equipment in their arsenal, was destroyed as well. And outside of the losses experienced just by UCF, hippo populations in Uganda have been decimated by as much as 70% in the last 4 years. In summary, hippos and our conservation partners in Uganda need our help now more than ever.

And we are stepping up! We’re sending funds to buy a boat, and the Global Conservation Foundation is matching our contribution!

There has never been a time in my career where I’ve been able to contribute to a real conservation need in such a huge and impactful way. I am truly so proud to say that I work at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, an organization that is putting animal care and conservation at the forefront of their mission. It’s an honor and a privilege to not only take care of amazing animal ambassadors, but to see their lives have an actual influence on their wild counterparts (and the humans who protect them, too!).

So, at a time when so much of the conservation story can feel negative and foreboding, we wanted to share this rainbow of hope made possible by the efforts of many humans and hippos here at the Zoo!

As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”