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CINCINNATI (CBSNEWS/AP) – A prematurely born hippo in Ohio has been providing regular doses of happiness for animal lovers, in a show of public affection that’s also given an emotional lift to Cincinnati Zoo workers.
After months of backlash over the zoo’s fatal shooting of Harambe, a gorilla who became a pop culture phenomenon in death, baby Fiona is the new center of attention there.
“She has brought everyone together,” said Jenna Wingate, one of Fiona’s caregivers. “It brings us to tears sometimes.”
Blog and video updates such as Fiona taking a bottle, splashing in a pool or learning to run have drawn tens of millions of online views. Tens of thousands of people have bought Team Fiona T-shirts, and thousands more have eaten a Cincinnati bakery chain’s Fiona-themed treats, with proceeds supporting the zoo’s efforts. She gets so many cards and letters that she has her own mail bin.
On a recent sunny afternoon at the zoo, Gina Brockman, of Taylor Mill, Kentucky, got her children in place for a photo near the hippopotamus area and just before snapping it, said: “Say Fiona!”
“They can’t wait to see her,” Brockman said. “I think she has brought everybody lots of excitement.”
Zoo officials say zoos are increasingly using newer media to interest the public, such as the recent livestream of April the giraffe giving birth in New York’s Animal Adventure Park.