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Premature baby Nile hippo fights for life at Cincinnati Zoo

A premature baby hippopotamus is being given 24-hour care at Cincinnati Zoo. The female calf had not been expected until March.

Staff at Cincinnati Zoo have continued their 24-hour critical care for the female calf born early on Tuesday at just 13 kilos (29 pounds). The usual weight for a Nile hippo at birth is 24 to 54 kilos.

Born six-weeks premature, the female calf is the first Nile hippo to be born at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden in 75 years.

Zookeepers have collected milk from the mother, 17-year-old Bibi, and hope to get the baby hippo to drink it. Curator Christina Gorsuch said staff were giving the calf fluids and keeping her warm.

"She looks like a normal calf but is very, very small. Her heart and lungs sound good and she is pretty responsive to stimuli, but we aren't sure how developed her muscles and brain are," Gorsuch said in a statement.  "Her little system is underdeveloped, and getting her to a healthy weight will be a challenge. Vets and animal staff are doing everything they can to get her through this critical time."

The father is a 35-year-old hippo called Henry.

The zoo came under the spotlight when a silverback gorilla was shot by zoo staff after a 4-year-old boy fell into its enclosure last May.