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Bring hippos into your home during coronavirus isolation
By Tom Adkinson

cincinnati zoo hippos
Bibi and Fiona; image by Tom Adkinson

CINCINNATI – Coronavirus isolation made the Cincinnati Zoo close its doors, meaning you can’t go see its rock-star-famous hippo named Fiona, its Brazilian porcupine named Rico, its cheetah named Kris that has its own pet dog, its gangly giraffes and other critters large and small. However, the zoo is making them video stars with a Facebook Live feed that then migrates to YouTube. It’s at 3 p.m. ET every day and is designed to provide some entertainment and education while humans are cooped up. The segments, called “Home Safari,” are narrated by zoo staffers and suit viewers young and old. Consider them science lessons for kids out of school and gee-whiz time for adults. As zoo director Thane Maynard said, “We’re bringing the zoo to people who are stuck at home.”

cincinnati zoo giraffe
Cincinnati Zoo giraffe; image by Tom Adkinson

“Home Safari” started with the zoo’s best-known animal, the prematurely born hippo named Fiona. She came into the world at 29 pounds (100 is normal) in January 2017 and had to be bottle-fed after veterinarians figured out how to milk her mother, Bibi. Three years later, Fiona weighs 1,300 pounds and shares a 70,000-gallon tank of recycled rainwater with Bibi, herself a 3,500-pound beauty. Tilapi swim around them to help keep the tank clean. All of the programs impart plenty of trivia, suitable to retain and spice up quarantine conversations. Did you know that hippos can run up to 18 miles an hour and that they generate about 22 pounds of poop a day?

The Cincinnati Zoo is America’s second oldest zoo and is famous for its breeding program. It has more than 500 animal specimens in its collection, so it won’t run out of “Home Safari” subjects. It normally attracts 1.5 million visitors a year – when challenges such as the coronavirus aren’t present.

Trip-planning resources:

(Travel writer Tom Adkinson’s new book, 100 Things To Do in Nashville Before You Die, is available at

Published March 27, 2020

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