Cincinnati Zoo's Beloved Hippo Fiona Shares Sixth Birthday Cake With Baby Brother Fritz

The Cincinnati Zoo’s popular hippo Fiona enjoyed a cake at her sixth birthday celebration on Tuesday, January 24.

Fiona became an “internet sensation” as the zoo shared her story when she was born six weeks premature.

This video livestreamed by the Cincinnati Zoo shows Fiona, the birthday girl, exploring her cake made of a variety of produce as a crowd sang her ‘Happy Birthday.’

Fiona was joined by her mom, Bibi, and her six-month-old brother, Fritz, with whom she shared her cake. Credit: Cincinnati Zoo via Storyful

Video transcript

- It's for Fiona. And we're here to celebrate and talk all about her journey and just kind of enjoy ourselves. And thankfully, it's a nice sunny day here at the Cove. And it's warm enough for her to come out and be with us.

(SINGING) Happy birthday to you.

- Oh, we can hear the crowd is now singing Happy Birthday--

(SINGING) Happy birthday to you.

- --to Fiona. Wow. So yeah, if you're not familiar with Fiona's story, it's one that's hard to believe. But that's OK, we can go ahead and fill you in. Fiona was born here at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden on January 24th of 2017.

And she was actually born about six weeks premature and she only weighed 29 pounds. So typically, hippos are born weighing anywhere from 55 to 100 pounds. So Fiona was incredibly small. When she was born, it became very apparent to us that she was not going to be able to nurse on her own or stand on her own, and that if she was going to survive, she would need some serious medical intervention from our team.

So the decision was made to pull her and hand raise her. Unfortunately for us, at that time nobody had ever done this with a premature hippo. Nobody had ever successfully raised a preemie. So we kind of didn't know what we were doing in the beginning. We kind of had to write our own playbook.

And it took a whole village of people, some of the greatest minds in the zoo world, and lots of help, even from Cincinnati Children's Hospital as well. All sorts of people within our community with knowledge and ability to help band together and helped us raise her.

We made it through-- we made it through a variety of different health problems. But Fiona overcame absolutely everything. And now she's six years old. She's tipping the scales at over 2,300 pounds as of today. And as you can see, she is a happy, healthy hippo.

And she became something of an internet sensation along the way. Our zoo was very interested in telling Fiona's story as it was happening. So she was on social media. We were sharing updates. The world and especially our Cincinnati community was rooting for us and watching her story with bated breath to see what would happen.

And as we said, she's obviously thriving and alive and doing well today. So here we are. It's become our annual tradition, of course, to have a big birthday cake and a celebration. Because it's a big deal. She's been through so much and everybody loves her so much. We definitely love to celebrate and make a big deal out of Fiona.

So she's got her cake. As you can see, we've got a lot of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries. Definitely a berry theme. Oh, yummy. And some delicious yogurt whipped cream icing on top of there as well. Hippos just like us really seem to enjoy sweet things. Watermelon is also one of their favorite treats.

But at this point Fiona, and Fritz get along great. They're great playmates. Fiona is doing a really great job of being gentle and patient with Fritz, kind of teaching him, showing him the ropes about what it's like to be a hippo and live in a float.

And it's absolutely amazing to watch that Fritz is just as charismatic and fun and sassy and spunky as Fiona was. And that was such a surprise for us. We kind of all assumed that had something to do with Fiona being hand-raised and being around people and being used to cameras and stuff like that.

And now, seeing that Fritz's mother raised and has so many of those similar qualities, we're starting to think it's just genetics, and like Phoebe just produces some really charismatic amazing little hippo babies, apparently.

Always done in a very safe way. But yes, Fiona absolutely comes over and engages in that sort of interaction with us.

- Alexandria wants to know, how long can a hippo hold their breath underwater? And do they sleep underwater?

- Oh, great questions. So hippos can hold their breath from around three to five minutes typically is what we see. And they do sleep in the water. In fact, it's incredible. Hippos will sleep with their heads completely submerged and they'll lift or rise up to the surface to take breaths without even waking. It's like an involuntary response that exists in them, which is really, really cool, very impressive stuff.

- LaDonna asks, what age does Fiona have to [? be-- ?]