Fiona turns 1: How Cincinnati's famous hippo became a worldwide star

Fiona turns 1: How Cincinnati's famous hippo became a worldwide star
Fiona has captured hearts online since her birth on Jan. 24, 2017. (Photo courtesy of Cincinnati Zoo/Lisa Hubbard)
Fiona has captured hearts online since her birth on Jan. 24, 2017. (Photo courtesy of Cincinnati Zoo/Lisa Hubbard)

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - It's not a national holiday, but we think it should be. The countdown is on for Fiona's first birthday Wednesday!

The four-legged phenom may have been born prematurely at Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, but now she's large and in charge and celebrating her first year of life.

The zoo is celebrating Fiona's big day with a special Facebook Live of the happy hippo enjoying her birthday cake. Watch below:

Although Cincinnati is Fiona's home, her social media stardom, books, cookies, and even a TV show have proved that her popularity spans the globe.

Fiona made her grand entrance into this world six weeks early weighing only 29 pounds. That's the lowest recorded birth weight for her species.

Zoo officials were not sure if the baby hippo would make it. They knew Fiona would need intensive, supportive care, so keepers made the decision to intervene.

Her early struggles led to 24-hour care in her first months by zookeepers and some help from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. NICU nurses helped zoo staff insert a lifesaving IV catheter when Fiona became dehydrated.

"The fact that she's alive today is a bit of a miracle," said Christina Gorsuch, Cincinnati Zoo's curator of mammals.

At just one month old, Fiona was already gaining a fan base thanks to the zoo's daily updates on social media. Viewers kept a close eye on her ups and downs and even coined the "Team Fiona" hashtag to show their support.

But this girl is a fighter. Fiona now weighs more than 600 pounds and is now on a steady hippo diet of hay, fruit, lettuce, beet pulp, and grain, as opposed to her bottles of formula.

It wasn't just personal growth the so-called diva experienced in her first year.

Here are some of the highlights:

Fiona is an excellent source for romance. The baby hippo was a witness to an engagement at the zoo's hippo exhibit. No word on if she will be part of the big day as well.

In August, the Cincinnati Zoo released the first eight-minute episode of "The Fiona Show." The show debuted never before seen footage of the happy hippo's earliest days.

Fiona's first days weren't the only thing catching the eyes of the public and cameras.

Napping? Her fans swoon.

Swimming? She makes a splash online.

The world seems so enamored with the sassy star that even her so-called 'toots' gained adoring attention. I mean hey, who doesn't still laugh at a good passing gas story?

Fiona also served as a source of inspiration and a driver for local businesses.

Families of premature babies received the book, "Fiona's Feelings," for World Prematurity Awareness Day. Fiona, a preemie herself, and her strength inspired the author, who is a pediatrician at Cincinnati Children's.

That's not the only literary piece on Fiona.

There's now a book in honor of her first birthday, "Hip, Hippo, Hooray for Fiona!" The book, which is being sold at Kroger, is a keepsake baby album, with the story of her very first days as well as 65 zoo photos.

Fiona has stolen hearts all across the U.S. and back in December, a company capitalized on that love so that you could wear Fiona above your heart.

Cincy Shirts, an Over-the-Rhine based company, released a Christmas sweater for Fiona fans with the saying 'I want a hippopotamus for Christmas.' Cincy Shirts also sells an entire line devoted to the hippo.

But if Fiona fashion isn't for you, the U.S. Playing Card Co. had you covered. The company made decks featuring the preemie.

Right now, some may even be flipping through their Fiona calendar. What's better than starting out each month with a picture of everyone's favorite phenom?

For the Fiona fan's of age, you could crack open a cold one in honor of the hippo the past summer.

That's right, a special beer for the baby hippo. The adult beverage was a New England style IPA called "Team Fiona" was released in June. Listermann Brewing teamed up with the Cincinnati Zoo for the brew.

Our favorite friend's birthday is Jan. 24, but the celebrations began a few days early at the zoo.

Her birthday party on Saturday was attended by 6,890 people where guests got to witness her eat a two-tiered 'cake' made up of her favorite fruits and veggies.

For fans who couldn't make it to her party, Kroger celebrated with Busken Fiona cookies and a special bouquet. And we are in Cincinnati after all so what would a celebration be without Graeter's ice cream? It wouldn't be, that's what.

The Cincinnati based cold treat chain whipped up a batch of 'Chunky Chunky Hippo' over the summer.

It's been a wild ride for the last 365 days, I mean really, she is a wild animal.

We couldn't think of a better way to say happy birthday than to share some of the best of Fiona moments with you.

So from all of us across Cincinnati and beyond: Happy birthday, Fiona! We look forward to the joy you'll bring us this year.

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