Fiona the hippo is officially a big sister. Bibi’s baby has arrived at the Cincinnati Zoo

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CINCINNATI (WVXU) — The wait is over. Bibi has given birth to a second hippo calf, making Fiona a big sister.

The Cincinnati Zoo says a healthy full term hippo baby was born around 9:40 p.m. Wednesday.

“This calf looks huge to us because Fiona, Bibi’s first baby, only weighed 29 pounds when she was born six weeks premature and wasn’t able to stand on her own,” said Christina Gorsuch, Cincinnati Zoo’s director of animal care in a release. “This new calf weighs at least twice as much as Fiona did and is already walking. We’re not sure if nursing has occurred yet because the water is murky. It’s Bibi’s first time nursing, since Fiona had to be cared for by the hippo staff, so we’re keeping a close eye on them to make sure we don’t need to step in.”

During an afternoon news conference, keepers elaborated on the calf and the birth. Gorsuch and Africa Senior Keeper Jenna Wingate say Bibi has been very calm following the birth, allowing keepers several times to briefly make adjustments to the area she and the calf are occupying.

Bibi the hippo and her new baby.
[Courtesy Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden]
The zoo says mom and baby won’t be on display right away but it will post pictures and video as able. The baby’s gender was not immediately known. A name hasn’t been selected either, the zoo reports.

“We’ll let Bibi lead this and see when the best time is to find out the information we all want,” says Wingate.

“Generally between three and five days of age … is a pretty safe window of time to do any neonatal exam we need to do,” Gorsuch adds.

Keepers had been monitoring Bibi’s labor throughout the evening on cameras in her enclosure, occasionally using a flashlight to peek in and check on her.

Wingate describes the moment she discovered the baby had arrived.

“I was just sitting there and she was off camera and not in a great spot for us to see anything, but I heard this plop and splat and immediately got up and was about to run to the baby,” she says. “I just went (and) confirmed again with my flashlight that the baby was alive and moving and then we took a hands off approach for a moment. So, I heard the baby being born, but none of us saw the baby being born.”

One cute thing, Gorsuch adds, is the way the new calf moves around.

“It’s really bouncy right now because, again, hippo calves are usually born in water so their hind legs are like little springs to push them up from the bottom because of hippos being dense. So even on land it kind of is moving in these weird little jumpy spurts, which is pretty adorable. And Fiona certainly didn’t do that because she didn’t have the muscles to do that when she was born.”

Bibi began showing signs Tuesday that labor was approaching. A post in a zoo member’s group reported, “After showing increased activity (or signs of restlessness) on habitat this morning, it became evident that Bibi wanted to be alone inside the hippo barn. She’s been in the indoor hippo pools this afternoon snacking, resting and getting comfortable.”

Bibi’s official due date was estimated at Aug. 15, but she was considered to be at full term in mid-July. Keepers began separating Bibi from Fiona and Tucker at night around the end of July, just as a precaution. She had also begun to show signs then of wanting to be left alone while eating.

Volunteers and staff began monitoring Bibi around the clock in late July. Volunteers were monitoring her in four-hour shifts, both in-person and remotely on their computers. Staff could also monitor Bibi from home.

Wingate previously told WVXU the zoo has space for four hippos, so the calf will stay here for a while. Ultimately — because of breeding and other concerns — the calf will likely be moved to a new home in two to five years, she estimates.

The zoo announced in April Bibi was pregnant. At that time, it was estimated she was about four months along when the unplanned pregnancy was discovered.

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