The first Nile Hippopotamus born at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden in 75 years arrived unexpectedly early, weighing just half the average hippo birth weight.

Preemie Baby Hippopotamus Has A Long Way To Grow

The Cincinnati Zoo is celebrating the birth of a baby hippo! The yet-unnamed calf was born on January 24th to 17-year-old mama Bibi and 35-year-old papa Henry. The news isn't all good, however: the baby wasn't expected until March making its birth premature by four to six weeks. As a result, the new calf is very week and weighed just 29 pounds at birth – that's roughly 25 pounds lighter than the lowest ever recorded hippopotamus birth weight.   

Preemie Baby Hippopotamus Has A Long Way To Grow

Premature or not, Cincinnati Zoo staff have many months of planning and preparation under their belts. Dr. Jessye Wojtusik of the zoo's Center for Conservation & Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW), for example, has been performing weekly ultrasound exams on Bibi since August of 2016. An exam taken on January 9th confirmed Bibi's pregnancy but a follow-up exam on January 23rd indicated the baby was about to be born, prompting staff to roll out their hippo birth protocol ahead of schedule.    

Preemie Baby Hippopotamus Has A Long Way To Grow

Like any premature birth, special measures had to be taken to ensure the calf's survival. For one thing, she's too short to nurse naturally – she can barely stand as it is. Fortunately, zoo staff anticipated this issue and during Bibi's last few ultrasound exams they've been diligently (and delicately) milking her. “We're hoping to get the baby to drink Bibi's milk and other supplements from a bottle,” explained Christina Gorsuch, the Cincinnati Zoo's curator of mammals. “Her little system is underdeveloped and getting her to a healthy weight will be a challenge,” she added. When the calf grows enough to nurse on her own, zoo staff will attempt to reunite her with her mother.

Preemie Baby Hippopotamus Has A Long Way To Grow

To be sure, the Cincinnati Zoo's new baby Nile Hippopotamus has LOTS of growing to do. Mature female hippopotami can weight up to 2,900 pounds – that's one hundred times the baby's birth weight! Please visit the Cincinnati Zoo's website and Facebook page to keep updated with the baby hippo's progress. In the meantime, enjoy this video of the wee beastie in action. (via Cincinnati Zoo and WebEcoist)

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