Fiona hippo Cincinnati zoo


Social media star Fiona the hippo is about to celebrate her first birthday

It's time to party!


Chris Tognotti

Internet Culture

Published Jan 21, 2018   Updated May 22, 2021, 3:59 am CDT

To the delight and exhilaration of animal fans everywhere, one of the most admired hippos in America is about to celebrate her first birthday. It’s Fiona, the adorable Nile hippo who’s fought her way back to good health after being born prematurely last January. Fiona was born at the Cincinnati Zoo, and, despite fears in the moments after she was born that she wouldn’t survive, she’s lived a full year.

On Jan. 24th, 2017, Fiona’s mother Bibi went into labor, and her little hippo came out dangerously undersized and underweight. Fiona reportedly weighed just 29 pounds at birth, which for a hippo is very small; the average baby hippo, according to ABC News, ranges from 55-120 pounds.

Fiona was born six weeks premature. But she survived, and in the process, she became a beloved star, hailed and showered with affection by the mainstream media and social media alike.

Fiona’s popularity is likely a positive boon for the Cincinnati Zoo, which had a rough stretch of public relations the year prior to her birth―it’s the same zoo that came under fire for fatally shooting one of its gorillas, Harambe, after a child fell into his enclosure. As such, the zoo probably doesn’t mind having a new popular, broadly beloved viral star to help wash away those grim memories.

Fiona’s birthday isn’t actually Wednesday. But that clearly isn’t stopping countless people from wishing her a happy birthday and reflecting on her unexpected survival and hugely publicized first year of life. There will probably be no shortage of videos, pictures, and GIFs kicking around social media in the next few days, so anyone who’s a fan of Fiona’s should feel free to get in on the act.

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*First Published: Jan 21, 2018, 2:46 pm CST