Experts 'optimistic but guarded' about Cincinnati Zoo’s premature hippo

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Across social media people are talking about one premature little girl. They're sending prayers, well wishes, and simple "I love you messages" to Fiona.

Cincinnati Zoo is asking for positive vibes for the hippo that was born six weeks early.

Zoo Director Thane Maynard said everyone at the zoo is hopeful but guarded about Fiona. Zoo officials have a goal in mind, and that's to get her in good shape by the spring.

"We haven't had a baby hippo born at the Cincinnati Zoo in over 75 years," Maynard said.

Baby hippos are usually born between 55 and 120 pounds. Fiona was born six weeks premature last week, weighing just 29 pounds.

"She is at risk. Hence the 24-hour care. When we say shes in a neonatal intensive care unit just like at Children's Hospital, that's what it is," Maynard said.

Zoo staffers are now working around the clock non-stop to help her.

[How you can help Fiona]

Maynard said they're consulting with researchers and professors. Cincinnati Children's Hospital is also helping.

"The people on the zoo team working with Fiona are pretty exhausted. That's the vets, the vet techs, the keepers, the nutritionists - everybody's in on this," Maynard said.

Zoo experts said Fiona's development still isn't where they'd like it to be right now.

"She doesn't really have the weight gain and the activity that we want to see... and that hopefully we'll see down the road in a week or two," Maynard said.

He said Fiona is on a long road, but their goal is to get Fiona healthy and living outside in Hippo Cove.

"With any luck, by spring she'll be in that pool with her parents. That's what our goal is," Maynard said.

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