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For a hippo who was born six weeks premature, a little bit of holiday weight gain is a good thing

By Maura Hohman
December 28, 2018 08:50 AM
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Credit: Cincinnati Zoo Twitter

For a hippo who was born six weeks premature, a little bit of holiday weight gain is a good thing.

Fiona the Nile hippo — who captured the hearts of Americans when she was born at just 29 lbs. in January 2017 — has hit an important growth milestone, the Cincinnati Zoo revealed on its Twitter the day after Christmas.

She now weighs 1,000 lbs. It’s especially exciting news as she’s the most premature hippo born in a zoo who has survived. The average hippo calf weighs around 100 lbs. at birth, and when they’re fully grown, they can weigh anywhere between 3,000 to 8,000 lbs., according to National Geographic.

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Fiona the hippo
| Credit: Cincinnati Zoo Twitter

Fiona’s keepers expressed their excitement with a video that shows her getting her gums cleaned, eating plenty of snacks and generally looking like a happy camper.

“Hooray! Fiona finally broke the 1,000 pound milestone!” the tweet reads. “That’s a long way from the 29 pounds she weighed when she was born six weeks premature on January 24, 2017! Her : to keep growing! .”

In an interview with local radio station WVXU, Fiona’s primary caretaker, Jenna Wingate, recalled the mammal’s early struggles.

“Fiona becoming 1,000 lbs. is a big deal to us because we didn’t know if she would survive in the first place,” Wingate told the outlet.

She added that while 1,000 lbs. isn’t actually that medically significant, it’s still worth celebrating.

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Fiona the hippo
| Credit: Cincinnati Zoo Twitter

“A thousand pounds is an exciting number and a big number and she’s a third of the way to being a full-grown hippo, so that’s a big deal,” Wingate said. “We didn’t even know if she would survive, let alone if she would grow just as any other hippo calf does, or how large she would get. She seems to be right on track with other hippos her age and is hitting all the marks as she should.”

Zoo Hippo Fiona, Cincinnati, USA - 02 Nov 2017
Fiona the hippo
| Credit: AP/REX/Shutterstock

According to Wingate, Fiona’s personality hasn’t changed over the almost two years since her birth. She loves posing for cameras and playing with her mom Bibi and her human trainers, who’ve successfully taught her commands like sitting and opening her mouth on cue, WVXU reports.

“She’s definitely living the best life,” Wingate concluded, smiling.

RELATED VIDEO: Fiona the Baby Hippo Gets Her First Taste of Snow

Fiona gained a solid chunk of her weight when she had a growth spurt this past summer. Her big gain started on July 3, when she weighed 796 lbs. Fifteen days later, she hit 818 lbs.

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Fiona the hippo
| Credit: Courtesy Cincinnati Zoo/Mark Dumont

Another big accomplishment this year? The release of her children’s book in August. Fiona the Hippo, by New York Times bestselling illustrator Richard Cowdrey (Bad Dog, Marley!), tells the story of how Fiona defied odds and inspired millions with her spunk and determination.