Two of the Newest Animals at the Cincinnati Zoo

The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden is home to more than 500 animals and over 3,000 plant species. One of the latest additions to the zoo is Tucker, an 18-year-old male hippopotamus. Tucker had spent a decade at the San Francisco Zoo before joining Bibi, the mother of the internationally known Fiona, at the Cincinnati Zoo’s Hippo Cove.

The 22-year-old Bibi will help Tucker acclimate to life in the cove, which includes spending time in the pool and enjoying a diet of beets, melons, squash, and hay. This should suit Tucker, whose pool time and snack time were popular with guests in San Francisco.

Representatives from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Species Survival Plan recommended Tucker’s relocation for both his and Bibi’s benefit. While experts believe the two can successfully bond and make a stable hippo pod, breeding is a long way off. Bibi and Tucker’s introduction has been divided into stages, allowing the animals to spend time in proximity before sharing the same space. It is not uncommon for weeks to pass before the viewing public gets to see a new animal such as Tucker.

Similarly, Fiona, Bibi’s globally popular 4-year-old daughter, will spend time away from the pod as the adults get acquainted, though she will join Bibi and Tucker as soon as the two are comfortable together. The trio makes an impressive sight for zoo visitors: Tucker weighs approximately 4,500 pounds, Bibi weighs about 3,500 pounds, and “little” Fiona is approaching 2,000 pounds.

Questions about Tucker and Bibi always return to breeding. Nile hippos technically are not an endangered species, but they serve as an important indicator for other animals in native environments, including critically endangered species such as elephants and rhinoceroses.

Tucker arrived at the Cincinnati Zoo around the same time as an animal of very different proportions — a healthy baby red panda was born to Lin, the resident red panda, in July 2021. It was a unique birth, considering Lin had lost a pregnancy just a few months before. Since the red panda is a seasonal breeder, zoo officials did not anticipate any offspring for Lin until the next year at the earliest. Dr. Erin Curry, a reproductive physiologist at the zoo, said Lin is the first recorded instance of a red panda losing a pregnancy and subsequently going through the implantation phase of reproduction a second time.

Researchers at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden Lindner Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) have spent considerable time studying red panda reproduction. In 2015, CREW scientists used ultrasonography and hormone monitoring technology to become the first organization to accurately predict the birth dates of two cubs at the zoo.

Lin’s cubs are especially important considering the endangered status of red pandas, which appear on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species. Poaching, illegal trading, and the loss and degradation of habitats have impacted the species. The Cincinnati Zoo is a supporter of the Red Panda Network, which protects red pandas and their native bamboo forests.

Robert S. Castellini — Active in Philanthropy