It has been six months of Omo goodness, so Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is taking a little trip down memory lane AND showing you some new up-close Omo footage. Spoiler alert: incoming Omo window boops.
From watching Zambezi embrace motherhood for the first time with such a gentle nature to seeing Omo wild out in the pools, and every nap, plop and ear wiggle in between, it's been a joy sharing these two with you all. Happy six-month birthday, Omo!
Cincinnati Zoo invites Fiona fans everywhere to join the virtual celebration
World-famous hippo Fiona turns five today! Since it’s too cold for the beloved queen of the Queen City to be outside on her big day, Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden will be hosting a virtual birthday celebration. A $5 birthday gift gets you an invitation to the party.
“It’s hard to believe that it’s been five years since Fiona was born,” said Cincinnati Zoo director and party host Thane Maynard. “She has touched so many people with her story of survival and has become a symbol of hope for millions of people around the world.”
You’ll hear from some of those people during Fiona’s virtual celebration. The party will also include birthday greetings from celebrities, like Johnny Bench and Jane Goodall, and touching stories from members of her care team. And, of course, Fiona will get cake and presents J.
“Fiona’s story tugs at the heartstrings,” said Maynard. “She was born premature and too small to stand to nurse from her mom. The Zoo’s vets and hippo care team stepped in to try to nurse her to health. It was a tough journey. We almost lost her a couple of times, but she made it and eventually rejoined her mom and dad. This 5th birthday is extra special considering her rough start.” (see Fiona’s story for more information)
A link to the virtual birthday party will be sent to all who purchase a $5 birthday gift. The video becomes active at noon, EST, on January 24. People with the link can join the party at noon or view it later.
No on-site birthday activities are planned, since it will be too cold for the hippos to be outside. If you do visit tomorrow, bundle up and save a bundle during Penguin Days!!
Here comes Omo - Cheyenne Mountain Zoo's loveable toothless wonder! The Colorado Springs Zoo's Keepers say their 5-month-old hippo calf has started growing tiny tusks. They still have quite a bit of growing to do before they reach his mom, Zambezi, or dad, Biko's, size. Keepers say right now his tusks are about the size of Tic Tacs!
September was a big month for Cheyenne Mountains Zoo’s (Colorado Springs, Colorado)
quickly growing Nile hippo calf. He got a name, explored new spaces and tried new foods. One thing didn't change for young Omo, though: his love for naps.
Join Water's Edge: Africa keeper, Grace, for an update on the Zoo’s two-month-old calf, and hear about how Omo's following in mom's footsteps literally and figuratively. Zambezi is a confident hippo, and her little boy is showing signs he'll be just the same!
September 13, 2021 (COLORADO SPRINGS) – Cheyenne Mountain Zoo today announced the name of its baby hippo with a video featuring the calf’s mom, Zambezi [zam-BEE-zee] making the big reveal.
Keepers set up an extra-special breakfast of carrots, oranges and hay for Zambezi in the shape of her calf's new name. As the video plays in reverse, the baby’s name, Omo [OH-moh], is revealed!
CMZoo staff voted on the baby’s name and, like his mom and aunt, the baby was named after a river in Africa. The seasonal flooding of the Omo River is vital for food cultivation by the indigenous groups that live along it. Water conservation is an important focus of Water's Edge: Africa, where the hippos live at CMZoo, and the calf's name aims to inspire Zoo fans to take action to conserve water.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List categorizes Nile hippopotamuses as a species vulnerable to extinction in the wild, estimating 125,000 to 150,000 remain in their native habitats. The primary threats are habitat loss and illegal and unregulated hunting. Hippos are hunted for their meat and for their ivory canine teeth.
Only 30 organizations accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums in North America, including Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, house hippos. As first-time parents, Biko’s and Zambezi’s offspring represents an important contribution to the population of hippos in human care. The Nile Hippopotamus Species Survival Plan manages the population’s breeding recommendations to achieve the highest possible genetic diversity in the pool.
With a final push, a little splash and some adorable baby hippo ear wiggles, 28-year-old Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Nile hippopotamus, Zambezi (zam-BEE-zee), welcomed her first calf on Tues. July 20. At 1:57 p.m., the baby hippo popped up from underwater, bobbed up and down, and swam right over to meet its mom. As long as things continue to go well for Zambezi and her baby, the hippo building will be open and guests can visit them in Water’s Edge: Africa right away. If Zambezi or the baby show signs they need more quiet time, the Zoo will close the area temporarily.
“It was an incredible moment to see this beautiful baby join our family,” said Philip Waugh, lead keeper at Water’s Edge: Africa. “Zambezi’s a first-time mom, but she knew just what to do. As soon as she delivered the calf, she turned around to greet it and started helping it to shallow water. I’m so proud of her.”
The brand-new buoyant bundle of joy is the first hippo born at CMZoo in 32 years. The moment brought eagerly awaiting CMZoo staff members to happy tears as the baby Nile hippo – a species vulnerable to extinction in the wild – made its debut. So far, mom and baby appear to be healthy and bonding well. Staff will continue monitoring the two hippos regularly and won’t separate mom and baby for an exam unless they think it’s medically necessary.
3,200-pound Zambezi is a well-known member of the CMZoo family, famous for her laid-back demeanor and loud hippo ‘laughs.’ She first came to CMZoo from Denver Zoo, in 1993. In June 2020, Biko (BEE-koh), a now 18-year-old long-legged male Nile hippo, joined the CMZoo hippo herd on a breeding recommendation with Zambezi and her sister, Kasai (kuh-SIGH). Biko and Zambezi took a shining to each other nearly immediately.
“Like any new couple, their first ‘dates’ had a few awkward moments, but once they connected, it was full-on hippo love,” said Waugh. “The two of them wanted to be together constantly, and we accommodated! They would do a hippo breeding ‘dance’ where they would swim nose-to-rear in a circle. We also saw them taking turns resting their heads on each other’s rear ends for little pool naps. They made it clear they liked each other. We saw their first successful breeding in November.”
Eight months later – a normal full-term gestation for Nile hippos – their little one is finally here. Normal newborn hippos can weigh between 40 and 80 pounds, and this calf appears to be in that range. Because there are no immediate plans to physically check the baby, its sex likely won’t be known for some time. The Zoo will make plans to name the baby after its one-month birthday, following Zoo tradition.
Although Zambezi’s care team was pretty sure she was pregnant, it was scientifically difficult to substantiate, so the team decided to wait and see instead of sharing the pregnancy news. Weight gain is not a reliable way to check for hippo pregnancy, because their daily weight regularly fluctuates by about 100 pounds. Ultimately, Zambezi’s pregnancy tests – including fecal samples and voluntary ultrasounds – were inconclusive. But, there’s no denying it now!
This baby is the fourth member of the hippo herd at CMZoo, and the fourth baby born at Water’s Edge: Africa since April. On April 26, ring-tailed lemur, Rogue, welcomed her first baby. On July 11, Rogue’s sister, Allagash, gave birth to twins. All first-time moms and their offspring are doing great.
On 3 May, a female hippo was born at Basel Zoo. Hippo cow Helvetia is already an experienced mother, which could be seen during the relatively peaceful birth that took place in the heated indoor pool. Both mother and calf have now made their first trip out into the outdoor enclosure.
The cool temperatures in May made the indoor pen much more appealing for Helvetia (29) leading up to the birth, so she gave birth to her calf in the heated indoor pool.
She stayed in the Africa house for the first few weeks after giving birth and did not want to leave the pool. On 1 June, she leisurely padded out of the pen, followed by her daughter Serena, and slid into the little river in the outdoor enclosure.
The new father is 30-year-old Wilhelm. The imposing bull and Helvetia get along very well most of the time. However, Helvetia will not let him near her calf yet and is proving to be a protective mother.
Visitors may need to be slightly patient, but with a little luck they will be able to see the small family in the outdoor enclosure. The Africa house is still closed at the moment.
A natural water birth
Hippos give birth and feed their young entirely in the water. This means of getting to their mother's teats and that sought-after milk demands a lot of energy from a newborn calf. After just a few mouthfuls, the calf must go back to the surface for air. They often have to interrupt their mealtimes more than ten times to resurface to breathe. This special behaviour observed in hippos comes from the fact that, in the wild, being in a river or a watering hole is the safest place for them. They largely spend their days relaxing in the water or on the banks. Only when evening has set in and it is dark do they properly go on land in search of feeding grounds. They then spend the entire night eating before making their way back to the safety of their watery homes before sunrise.
The common hippopotamus or the Nile hippopotamus?
These mammals that weigh well into the tonnes used to be known as Nile hippopotamuses, and this name is still sometimes used colloquially today. They are now known as common hippopotamuses, and they have not been found in the Nile for a long time. The last reliable sightings of hippos in the Nile area are from the early 1800s.
Born prematurely and exceptionally small two years ago at the Cincinnati Zoo, Fiona the Hippo celebrated her 2nd birthday on January 24.
Weighing just 29 pounds – about one fifth of what a normal newborn Hippo should weigh – Fiona’s story of against-all-odds survival captured the hearts of animal lovers around the world.
Photo Credits: Cincinnati Zoo (1,2,4,5,6); Lisa Hubbard (3)
As Fiona’s dedicated care team helped the little Hippo overcome one health challenge after another, fans cheered Fiona’s milestones, from her first swim to her poignant introduction to her mom Bibi and later her father, Henry.
You can read the dramatic story of Fiona’s birth and preemie care here.
Now about to enter her “terrible twos,” which her care team hopes won’t be too terrible, Fiona is just like any other normal Hippo. “Fiona is remarkable for being unremarkable now,” said Cincinnati Zoo Curator of Mammals Christina Gorsuch. “She’s just like most other 2-year-old hippos, except for the fact that she’s a celebrity in Cincinnati and beyond!”
The zoo held a huge celebration for Fiona’s first birthday and a big party last month when Fiona reached 1,000 pounds. This year, due to very cold outdoor temperatures, Fiona’s birthday was held behind the scenes and live-streamed to her many fans. Fiona and Bibi (Henry passed away in late 2017) enjoyed a towering “cake” made of Fiona’s favorite fruits and vegetables embedded in ice.
Fiona has become an ambassador for her species, and her story has inspired many people to care about wildlife and the challenges faced by endangered species.
Hippos are native to Africa, and while they are not officially endangered, wild populations are in decline due to habitat loss, increased incidence of drought, and illegal hunting. With less rainfall, Hippos, who often graze on tender grasses near water, have fewer areas in which to feed. As Hippos travel farther and farther to locate suitable feeding grounds, the risk of conflict with people and wildlife increases.