Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden in Ohio has come up with a new initiative to keep people connected to its animals, now that it has been closed to the public to help curb the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Fiona the Hippo eating her birthday cake at Cincinnati Zoo
Fiona the Hippo celebrating her third birthday © Cincinnati Zoo

The popular Cincinnati zoo is offering Home Safari Facebook Live sessions seven days a week, and it will also post the safaris on its website and YouTube so everyone can view them. This will be great for fans of Fiona the hippopotamus, who captured hearts all over the world when she was born six weeks prematurely in January 2017 weighing only 13kg, well below the average hippo calf size of about 23kg.

“That day three years ago is both a blur and a memory that’s etched in my mind,” says Christina Gorsuch, Cincinnati Zoo’s curator of mammals. “I’ll never forget walking into the hippo barn and seeing this tiny, slimy thing on the ground next to Bibi, her mom. We were shocked that she was alive and spent the next several months focused on keeping her that way.”

Fiona was cared for around the clock by a team of Cincinnati Zoo caregivers, with some emergency assistance from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital on a couple of scary occasions, while the rest of the world rooted for her to survive. The tiny hippo is now hale and hearty and is the zoo's most popular resident. The outpouring of love for her hasn’t died down three years later, and she has fans all over the world who will enjoy watching her online.

As well as Fiona, viewers can enjoy seeing plenty of other cute creatures on the daily Facebook sessions, including Moe the sloth and Kris the baby cheetah. "We’re bringing the zoo to people who are stuck at home,” says director Thane Maynard. “This zoo is so important to the community and not being able to visit will create a void that we’re trying to fill. The goal with the daily live sessions is to provide fun and educational content to people who are stuck at home.”

You can watch the Home Safari Facebook Lives here.

Keep up to date with Lonely Planet's latest travel-related COVID-19 news here.

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