Born six weeks premature at the Cincinnati Zoo on January 24, 2017, Fiona is now an international superstar.
Fiona the hippo turns 4-years-old this Sunday and she plans to celebrate it quarantine style! The Cincinnati Zoo's most famous resident's birthday schedule reportedly includes eating a lot of food, sleeping in, lounging around, and maybe — just maybe — socializing a little bit. "Lots of lounging around, lot's of napping," Wendy Rice, the head keeper of the Africa Department at the Cincinnati Zoo, told WLWT about Fiona's birthday plans. "Eating is the center of her world. Food, food, food." Now that's what I call a great birthday!
Rice has been with Fiona since day one, even before Cincinnati's portly princess was thrust into the spotlight due to her remarkable survival story. Born six weeks premature at the zoo on January 24, 2017, Fiona reportedly weighed only 29 pounds at birth. Despite being 25 pounds lighter than the lowest recorded birth weight for her species, her animal care team's tireless efforts helped her beat the odds and live to tell the tale. The now-not-so-little Fiona — she has gained a healthy weight for a hippo her age — has since grown into an international superstar with her antics earning her fans across the world.
Due to Fiona's stardom, Rice said, there will be a bit of pomp and circumstance come January 24. At the very least, she's get a special cake — which keepers call an ice cake — packed with her favorite fruits: kiwis, apples, and pineapples. "Just delicious and sugary foods that hippos love," said Rice. "She's probably going to be spending some time with mama, taking some naps, and if the weather cooperates, she'll come out and meet her adoring fans – as usual." However, Fiona's fans shouldn't get their hopes up much since it has to be at least 40 degrees for the hippo to come outdoors and the weather isn't ideal right now.
Fiona prefers to stay in her indoor exhibit and out of the public eye when can't come outdoors. Meanwhile, her most ardent admirers can still join in on the festivities as the Cincinnati Zoo is hosting Float4Fiona, a slow-paced race where thousands of numbered apples will splash into Hippo Cove and float to the finish line. The apples were available for purchase until earlier this week and the owners of the winning apple — plus three guests — will get an opportunity to meet the birthday girl herself. "We can’t invite people here to witness the race, but we will stream it live on Facebook and announce the winners as the apples cross the finish line," said Cincinnati Zoo director Thane Maynard.
"Since she is the sweetheart of the city, several zoo partners are offering Fiona-themed goodies to celebrate her birthday," Maynard added. Those interested can collect and enjoy shirts, beer, cookies, coffee, ice cream, pottery, art, and more. Meanwhile, Rice said that Fiona — who now weighs nearly 1600 pounds — is quickly maturing and is becoming more and more independent. "She's probably in her pre-teen years, we would say. In the last year, she kind of outgrew her sassy phase, and she's really matured in a lot of ways. She's become more independent. In the past, wherever Bibi (Fiona's mother) was, that's where Fiona was," Rice revealed.
"Just this past year, she's gotten a little bit braver and bolder. She's also starting to read boundaries a little bit better with mom. She was pushing the envelope, trying to see what she could get away with. But she's kind of settled down a bit and matured, and she can now read mama really well," she added. "She really does have a connection with people – she always has. She still will come out here and put on a show for her fans. She'll come right up to the glass and make eye contact with people. She understands that they're here for her, and that she's kind of a big deal."