The World Health Organization estimates that 15 million babies are born prematurely each year; that’s more than one in 10. More than one million babies die each year due to premature complications, and babies that survive can suffer from lifelong disabilities such as hearing and visual impairments.
When a baby animal is born prematurely, however, it has a much less chance of surviving. There are no doctors to nurse them back to health. The animal kingdom is an unforgiving environment, and babies that can’t keep up with the rest of their litter are often left to die.
That’s why zookeepers at the Cincinnati Zoo were nervous when Fiona, a baby hippo, was born on January 24—a whopping six weeks premature. Yet, only a week later, she did something completely unexpected that shocked them.
Fiona was nursed close to her mother and father so that all three could smell and hear each other.
Fiona needed to learn how to swim, nurse on her own, and grow a lot bigger before being reintroduced to her parents.
Hopefully Fiona makes a full recovery and can see her parents soon. With the help of the talented doctors and zoo workers, she should be able to assimilate back into her natural environment in no time!
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