By Hannah Stevens @Hannahshewans

A BABY hippo shocked zoo keepers when it arrived six weeks ahead of schedule

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Videographer / director: ZooBorns
Producer: Hannah Stevens, Ruby Coote
Editor: Marcus Cooper

The precious baby is being cared for 24 hours a day by zoo staff

The Nile hippopotamus was born to 17-year-old Bibi on January 24 at Cincinnati Zoo, but the calf - a female hippo - was not expected to deliver until March.

As the premature hippo was too small to stand and nurse from Bibi, the veterinary staff moved the baby to the zoo’s nursery where she could receive around the clock care.

The baby weighs in at 29 pounds, which is 25 pounds lighter than the lowest recorded birth weight for this species - the normal range is 55 to 120 pounds.

Mother Bibi gave birth to the calf six weeks ahead of schedule

Christina Gorsuch, curator of mammals at the Cincinnati Zoo said: “We are giving her fluids and keeping he moist and warm. 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.”

Animal care staff and vets are providing 24 hour intensive care for the baby in close proximity to mother Bibi and father Henry.

The baby hippo weighed in at 29 pounds - 25 pounds lighter than any recorded birth weight for the Nile hippo species

Gorsuch said: “We’re hoping to get the baby to drink Bibi’s milk and other supplements from a bottle.

“We’ll continue to milk Bibi so we can provide these important nutrients for the baby and also stimulate production so she’s ready to nurse when the baby is strong enough to be back with mom.”

Before the baby can be reunited with Bibi, it must reach the developmental milestone of getting on her feet independently.

Before the baby can be reunited with her mother she must be able to stand independently

Care staff are unsure how long that will take but she has already had her first experience in a small pool, which will help build muscle and balance and maintain her optimal body temperature of 96-98 degrees.

The baby made history when she was still in utero after zoo scientists captured the first ever ultrasound image of a Nile hippo fetus.