The once premature Nile hippopotamus was introduced to her parents, Bibi and Henry, for this family reunion photo-op

By Saryn Chorney
July 12, 2017 03:11 PM
Jenna Wingate/Cincinnati Zoo

Family reunions — they’re usually such a bore, what with all those half-cousins twice removed in from Canada, and Great Aunt Mildred complaining about the “chewy” pasta which is actually calamari. Not to mention the forced group photo where everyone looks so awkward and sweaty.

The scenario above was decidedly not the case on Tuesday at the Cincinnati Zoo, where the once premature baby hippo Fiona was joined in the pool by her parents for the first time.

“Family reunion! We’ve never been more excited about a post!” the Cincinnati Zoo shared on its Facebook page. “BiFi (the power duo name that’s being used for Bibi and Fiona) was joined by Henry this morning for the first time. The three were introduced in Hippo Cove’s outdoor pool before the Zoo opened, supervised by their care team. The short introduction went well. Bibi intervened when Henry got too close to Fiona, which was exactly what we were hoping to see. Introductions will continue.”

Somewhat disappointing for the young celebrity hippo’s fanbase, the Zoo also explained there’s no set schedule yet for Fiona’s display. “When she is out, she has access to go inside, so visitors may or may not see her,” said the Facebook post. “Please be understanding if you visit the Zoo and Hippo Cove is closed off as the family needs time to get used to each other in the outdoor pool.”

RELATED VIDEO: How Do I Clean My Dog’s Ears? PEOPLE’s Pet Vet Shows You How to Do It Safely

On Wednesday, however, the Zoo offered yet another glimpse into the aqua-tastic lives of this happy Nile hippopotamus trio. Just look at those smiles!

“Henry joined Bibi and Fiona in the outdoor pool for the second time this morning,” read the Zoo’s latest Facebook post. “They were out for about two hours, before the Zoo opened, and did well together. Bibi watched out for Fiona and intervened when Henry was too close or too rough. Fiona did not shy away from Henry. She initiated many of their interactions and stayed close to both parents most of the time that they were out.”

“When she is out, with mom or both parents, she has access to go back inside,” the Zoo wrote. “The plan is to continue family introductions and to leave them together for longer periods as they become comfortable as a group.”

Fiona was born in January, six weeks early and 25 lbs. underweight. Currently, she is more than 2 ft. tall and weighs 356 lbs., which the Zoo says is on-target for a young hippo born under normal circumstances. (Check out video of the family getting along just swimmingly below.)

“Bibi and Henry each weigh more than 3,000 pounds,” said Christina Gorsuch, curator of mammals at the Cincinnati Zoo, in a May statement. “She’s a tough little hippo, but she needs to be able to handle an accidental flick of the head from the adults.”

In a July 3 update to its blog, the Zoo wrote, “Fiona and Bibi have been doing great together! The speed and fluidity with which the two have developed their bond has been hugely beneficial to Fiona’s mental, social and physical well-being. Bibi has astounded our care team with her patience, tolerance and attentiveness towards Fiona. She has demonstrated a very real understanding that Fiona is a baby and must be interacted with and handled in a gentle way, a stark contrast to some of her interactions with Henry! Since Fiona spent so much of the beginning of her life in the care of humans, we don’t know if Bibi and Fiona understand that they are mother and daughter, however their fondness for each other cannot be denied and Bibi has definitely taken on the roll of mentor to our little hippo baby. Both genuinely seem to enjoy their mouthy and slobbery interactions, and Bibi seems intent on teaching Fiona how to behave like a proper hippo, even gently disciplining Fiona when necessary.”

The Zoo also devotes a few paragraphs to the emerging relationship between Henry and Fiona, writing, “the behavior we are seeing from Henry is NOT aggressive. Henry hippo is currently tipping the scales at right around 3400lbs (literally 10 times Fiona’s size) and it would be extremely easy for Henry to injure Fiona if he wanted to. Rather, it feels as though Henry is just a little unsure of Fiona and what their relationship should be. From a natural history standpoint, an adult male hippo should be completely comfortable with a female baby joining the bloat. However, it’s important to keep in mind that while Henry has been a father before, the last time he shared space with a baby was around 20 years ago. So for all intents and purposes, Henry probably feels a lot like a first-time dad and is likely unsure of how to act around Fiona.”

Congratulations to the Cincinnati Zoo and its successful first introductions. We eagerly await more updates from this sweet hippo family.