Cincinnati Zoo director: ‘Fiona changed the world’
>> THE CINCINNATYI ZOO HAS BEEN HERE A LONG TIME. AND WE’RE NOW FAMOUS, AS THE CINCINNATI ZOO AND BOTANICAL GARDENS. THAT LONG TRADITION, PARTICULARLY IN CINCINNATI WHERE EVERYBODY VALUES THE HISTORY IS VERY IMPORTANT. AS I SAY, CINCINNATI IS A ZOO TOWN. THIS TOWN STUCK WITH US. PEOPLE ARE STILL JOINING THE ZOO WITH, WE KNOW THAT YOU’RE NOT OPEN YET BUT WE KNOW YOU’RE GOING TO BE OPEN. WE WANT YOU TO MAKE IT. WE ARE A VERY SUPPORTIVE TOWN. >> FROM WLWT, THIS IS “LET’S TALK CINCY” IS PRESENTED BY WESTERN AND SOUTHERN FINANCIAL GROUP. PUT OUR FINANCIAL STRENGTH BEHIND YOU. COURTIS: ANYTIME SOMETHING IS CONSIDERED THE BEST, IT’S WORTH TALKING ABOUT. HELLO, EVERYONE. I’M COURTIS FULLER AND WELCOME TO “LET’S TALK CINCY.” THE CINCINNATI ZOO IS KNOWN AROUND THE WORLD AND IT IS NOW RANKED THE BEST ZOO IN AMERICA IN 2021, ACCORDING TO A POLL CONDUCTED BY USA TODAY’S 10 BEST. A PANEL OF TRAVEL EXPERTS PICKED THE INITIAL NOMINEES. THEN READERS SELECTED THE TOP 10 WINNERS BY POPULAR VOTE. THE ZOO’S RICH HISTORY BEGAN NEARLY 150 YEARS AGO IN 1873. ONE PERSON WHO KNOWS THE HISTORY AS WELL AS ANYONE, IS ZOO DIRECTOR THANE MAYNARD. THE ZOO HAS BEEN A BIG PART OF HIS LIFE FOR NEARLY A HALF CENTURY. >> THIS IS AN AMAZING PLACE, SECOND OLDEST ZOO IN THE COUNTRY. TALK ABOUT THE HISTORY OF THE ZOO. >> WELL, YOU KNOW, SINCE HE’S BEEN HERE A LONG TIME AND WE’RE NOW FAMOUS AS THE CINCINNATI ZOO AND BOTANICAL GARDEN. BUT THAT’S BEEN THE CASE ALL ALONG WITH ANDREW ERIC AND BRECKER AND THOSE GERMAN IMMIGRANTS STARTED THIS. THEY WANTED TO BRING WHAT THEY HAD HAD IN FRANKFURT AND STOOD GUARD TO CINCINNATI, WHICH WAS AN URBAN PARK, BEAUTIFUL PLANTINGS, EXOTIC ANIMALS AND CULTURAL EVENTS, AND OUR ORIGINAL TITLE WAS THE CINCINNATI ZOOLOGICAL’ GARDEN. BUT IT’S A GARDEN ON STEROIDS NOW BECAUSE WE REALLY GET AFTER IT, THAT’S FOR SURE. BUT YOU KNOW THAT TRADITION. BACK THEN, YOU CAN IMAGINE HOW IMPORTANT THAT WAS. I MEAN, THERE WASN’T A LOT SHAKING IN THE 1870’S, AND SO HAVING A PLACE LIKE THAT WHERE YOU CAN GET OUT OF OVER THE RHINE OR DOWNTOWN, WHERE THERE REALLY NO PLANS AND COME UP TO A BEAUTIFUL GARDEN IS REALLY SIGNIFICANT. AND WE STILL PLAY THAT ROLE DAY RESPITE FROM THE CITY, A PLACE THAT’S SHADY AND SOFT AND LOTS AND LOTS OF CULTURAL EVENTS. YOU KNOW, WE’RE LIVING THAT SAME MISSION, BUT THAT LONG TRADITION, PARTICULARLY IN CINCINNATI WHERE EVERYBODY VALUES, THEIR, THE HISTORY IS VERY IMPORTANT. AS I SAY, CINCINNATI IS A ZOO TOWN. PEOPLE LOVE THIS. AND I GO, WHETHER I’M IN CLEAVES OR I’M ALL THE WAY UP TERRORIST PARK, OR I’M IN NORTHERN KENTUCKY, EVERYBODY MEET HAS A STORY ABOUT THEIR KIDS WENT ZOO CAMP, BECAME VETERINARIANS, WENT TO THE ZOO FOR 15 YEARS. IT’S FUN, THE ROLE THAT ZOO PLAYS IN FAMILIES LIVES HERE. THAT IS WHY WE ARE HERE. COURTIS: AND IT’S GOOD TO SEE SO MANY FAMILIES BACK OUT, ESPECIALLY AFTER THE YEAR WE’VE HAD. IT’S A REMINDER OF HOW IMPORTANT THIS ZOO IS TO GREATER CINCINNATI. >> IT IS TRUE, YOU KNOW, LAST YEAR WHEN THE PANDEMIC FIRST HIT AND THE GOVERNOR CLOSED THE ZOO. IT ENDED UP BEING THREE MONTHS BUT WE HAD NO IDEA, YOU KNOW. SOME OF THE ZOOS IN CALIFORNIA WERE CLOSED FOR OVER A YEAR, THE NATIONAL ZOO IN D.C. WAS CLOSED FOR OVER A YEAR. AND MAN, WE’D BE COMPLETELY BROKE IF THAT HAD BEEN THE CASE BECAUSE IT WAS EXPENSIVE, EVEN WHEN YOU’RE NOT OPENING. THE VETERINARIANS AND KEEPERS WE HAVE TO FEED ALL THE ANIMALS, BUT WE MADE IT THROUGH BETTER THAN ANYBODY WOULD HAVE THOUGHT. THIS TOWN STUCK WITH US. PEOPLE ARE STILL JOINING THE ZOO WITH, WE KNOW YOU ARE NOT OPEN YET BUT WE KNOW YOU’RE GONNA BE OPEN. WE WANT YOU TO MAKE IT. WE ARE IN A VERY SUPPORTIVE TOWN. COURTIS: 44 YEARS FOR YOU. >> I GOT OLD QUICK, COURTIS. I’M TELLING YOU. COURTIS: DON’T WE ALL. BUT TELL ME YOUR JOURNEY. HOW DID YOU START HERE AT THE ZOO AND, AND OBVIOUSLY 44 YEARS LATER. >> WELL 44 YEARS AGO, THERE , WASN’T AS GREAT AN INTEREST IN WORKING IN THE ZOO FIELD AS THERE IS TODAY. I MEAN, TODAY, IF A JOB CAME OPEN, WHETHER IT’S ZOOKEEPER OR ZOO EDUCATOR, WHICH IS HOW I STARTED THERE’D BE 100 QUALIFIED , KIDS APPLYING FOR THAT JOB. BUT THAT’S AFTER A COUPLE GENERATIONS, ZOO CAMPS AND THINGS WHERE PEOPLE REALLY, REALLY GOT INTO THIS FIELD. BACK THEN, FOR ME IT WAS JUST RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME. PROCTOR HAD FUNDED THE WORLD’S FIRST ZOO EDUCATION CENTER, WHICH IS THE WOODEN BUILDING WE NOW CALL TREE TOPS, AND WE USE IT FOR A WIDE VARIETY OF PURPOSES, BUT IT HAD FIVE CLASSROOMS. THERE’S NEVER BEEN ANYTHING LIKE IT. AND THEY NEEDED SOME PEOPLE TO HELP LEAD PROGRAMS, SO I WAS FORTUNATE. I’D GOTTEN OUT OF GRAD SCHOOL, AND MY WIFE’S FROM CINCINNATI, AND SHE HAD A JOB WRITING ANY CINCINNATI MAGAZINE. AND LIKE A LOT OF YOUNG GUYS COMING UP, I’D NEVER REALLY BEEN VERY THOUGHTFUL ABOUT MY CAREER. I THOUGHT I’D GO TO AFRICA OR SOMETHING, BANG AROUND FOR A FEW YEARS, BUT SUDDENLY I FOUND MYSELF MARRIED AND I’M LIKE, I SHOULD PROBABLY GET A JOB. AND SO, IT WAS FORTUNATE. JUST RIGHT PLACE, THE RIGHT TIME, SO I SPENT 25 YEARS, YEAH, WORKING IN THE ZOO EDUCATION DEPARTMENT. AND, YOU KNOW, HELPING THAT PHENOMENON GROW NOT JUST HERE , BUT AT OTHER INSTITUTIONS WHERE SO MANY FAMILIES TODAY. I MEAN, OUR ZOO CAMPS AND ZOO TROOP AND ALL THOSE , PARTICIPATORY PROGRAMS, VOLUNTEER PROGRAMS LIKE ZOO TEEN , THEY FILL UP INSTANTLY. FAMILIES REALLY WANT THEIR KIDS INVOLVED. COURTIS: YOU ARE A CINCINNATI CELEBRITY, A CINCINNATI LEGEND AND I SAY THAT WITH ALL SINCERITY. >> WELL, SOME OF THAT’S ATTRIBUTED TO WE ARE A NON-TOURIST TOWN, BUT DOESN’T TAKE MUCH TO BE A CELEBRITY HERE. IF THE ZOOKEEPER CAN BE, BUT DON’T FORGET MY FRIEND JACK HANNA, BECAUSE HE PUT HIS HOUSEHOLD NAME AND A DARN GOOD GUY. BUT THAT IS A REFLECTION OF A ZOO LIKE OURS, THAT HAS TREMENDOUS SUPPORT IN THE COMMUNITY INCLUDING ANNUAL PHILANTHROPY AND SPONSORSHIPS FOR OPERATIONS, AND ALL OF OUR CAPITAL IS PRIVATELY RAISED. THIS ZOO IS PLUGGED INTO THE COMMUNITY, SO WE’RE OUT THERE WE’RE PITCHING THE ZOO EVERY DAY YOU KNOW WHETHER IT’S ENCOURAGING PEOPLE TO GET OUT HERE FOR EVENTS LIKE YOU KNOW THE PNC FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS, ZOO BABIES OR IS TO GET SPONSORS TO WANT TO BE DIRECTLY INVOLVED WITH THE ZOO. AND AS A RESULT, I AND OTHERS WHO REPRESENT THE ZOO ARE OUT THERE WORKING AT PRETTY GOOD. YOU KNOW, THERE’S SOME TOWNS WHERE THE FUNDING IS DIFFERENT, AND THE ZOO IS NOT AS ENGAGED IN THE COMMUNITY. NATIONAL ZOO IN WASHINGTON IS PART OF THE SMITHSONIAN, THEY DON’T NEED TO HUSTLE AND OF COURSE THE SAN DIEGO ZOO IF YOU HAVE A ZOO IN SAN DIEGO WHERE THE WEATHER’S PERFECT AND THERE IS NOTHING BUT TOURISTS YOU OUGHT TO BE ABLE TO GET A , CROWD. WE’RE FORTUNATE WE’RE IN CINCINNATI STYLE ZOO, WE SORT OF DO IT PETE ROSE HEADFIRST SLIDE STYLE, LIKE COME ON. IF IT’S WORTH DOING WE OVERDO IT HERE. YEAH. COURTIS: UP NEXT, A BIG VISION. THE $150 MILLION FUNDRAISING CAMPAIGN LEADING TO THE LARGEST CONSTRUCTION PROJECT IN THE ZOO’S HISTORY. AN INSIDE LOOK, WHEN “LET’S TALK CINCY” CONTINUES. COURTIS: THE CINCINNATI ZOO HAS EMBARKED ON A JOURNEY LIKE NONE OTHER IN ITS HISTORY. THE PROJECT IS CALLED MORE HOME TO ROAM. IT IS A $150 MILLION CAPITAL CAMPAIGN THAT WAS LAUNCHED IN 2018 TO CREATE WHAT THE ZOO CALLS A PACHYDERM PARADISE. THE BIGGEST CONSTRUCTION PROJECT IN THE ZOO’S HISTORY. THANE MAYNARD SAID BIG DONATIONS HAVE MADE THE CROWN JEWEL OF THE PROJECT, ELEPHANT TREK, ALL POSSIBLE. WITH THE GROUNDBREAKING THIS YEAR, BUSINESS AND COMMUNITY LEADERS, HARRY AND LINDA FATH KICKED OFF THE CAMPAIGN IN 2018 WITH A MAJOR DONATION IN THE AMOUNT OF $50 MILLION. COURTIS: YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT HOW PEOPLE SUPPORT THE ZOO, THE PHILANTHROPY HERE. AND LET’S TALK ABOUT THE CAPITAL CAMPAIGN. THIS WAS $150 MILLION, A DREAM. THREE YEARS AGO, TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THAT AND THE AMAZING SUPPORT THAT YOU RECEIVED ALREADY. >> WELL, CINCINNATI IS A GENEROUS TOWN. THAT IS THE TRUTH, NOT JUST OTHER CULTURAL GROUPS. I MEAN JUST REMARKABLE REALLY. I THINK WE HIT WAY ABOVE OUR WEIGHT. WHEN YOU HAVE GUESTS FROM OUT OF TOWN, YOU SHOW THEM THE ART MUSEUM MUSIC HALL AND ALL THE , DIFFERENT THINGS GOING ON IN THE CITY. I THINK THEY’RE REALLY IMPRESSED THAT OUR TOWN HAS ALL THAT, AND IT IS THANKS TO PRIVATE SUPPORT. A LOT OF TOWNS, SITES LIKE ST. LOUIS FUNDED THROUGH TAXES, BUT HERE, ALL THOSE THINGS I MENTIONED ARE FUNDED THROUGH PRIVATE SUPPORT. THAT’S PRETTY NEAT. OUR CAMPAIGN HAS GONE WELL. WE LAUNCHED IT IN THE SUMMER OF 2018 WITH THE INCREDIBLE LEADERSHIP GIFT FROM HARRY AND LINDA FATH, AND THAT GOT US A THIRD OF THE WAY THERE. THAT WAS UNPRECEDENTED, FRANKLY, IN OUR REGION, AND CERTAINLY UNPRECEDENTED IN THE HISTORY OF THE ZOO. WE HAVE A LONG HISTORY OF SUPPORT. THIS SINCE THAT TIME WE’VE BEEN GOING GANGBUSTERS AND WE’RE 80% OF THE WAY THERE, SO WE HAVE 30 MILLION MORE TO RAISE, AND THAT’S A LOT, BUT WE’RE GOING TO GET THERE. I COMPARE IT TO RUNNING THE FLYING PIG MARATHON WHICH I’VE DONE MANY YEARS, AND WE’RE AT ABOUT MILE 20. IT’S NO TIME TO STOP. IT’S GOT TO KEEP GOING. SO, IT’S BEEN GREAT, IT REALLY HAS. WE’VE HAD CERTAINLY MORE SUPPORT THAN EVER, AND A LOT OF ENTHUSIASM FOR WHERE WE’RE HEADED, BECAUSE, YES, THAT MONEYS FOR CAPITAL. BUT THAT CAPITAL IS REALLY THE FUTURE OF THE ZOO AND WHAT WE DO, SO IT IS CALLED MORE ROOM — MORE HOME TO ROAM. BUT ARE OTHER ANIMALS, AS WELL WE’RE GONNA DOUBLE THE AMOUNT OF SPACE FOR BLACK RHINOS. WE’VE ALREADY MADE A TERRIFIC EXHIBIT FOR KANGAROOS, A LITTLE PENGUINS FROM AUSTRALIA, AND THAT AFFORDS US AN OPPORTUNITY TO DO A GREAT JOB WITH OUR GENERAL VISITORS AND MEMBERS BUT ALSO TO BE PARTICIPATING IN GLOBAL CONSERVATION PROGRAMS WITH EVERYTHING FROM ALL THOSE PIECES I MENTIONED FROM PENGUINS , IN THE WILD TO ASIAN ELEPHANTS IN INDIA. COURTIS: IT’S GOOD TO HEAR THAT IT IS GOING SO WELL. I CAN ONLY IMAGINE, IF WE REWIND A YEAR AGO, YOU WERE PROBABLY WONDERING HOW ARE WE GOING TO MAKE THIS HAPPEN IN THE MIDST OF THIS PANDEMIC? BUT AGAIN, SUPPORT KEPT COMING. DESPITE THE PANDEMIC. >> YEAH, I’M SURE ANYBODY THAT RUNS ANY BUSINESS ANYWHERE, TOOK A GREAT PAUSE IN MARCH OF 2020 BECAUSE BUSINESSES, WHETHER IT WAS, YOU KNOW, RESTAURANT, CLOSING DOWN. IN THE CASE OF THE ZOO, REALLY ANYWHERE THAT’S AN ATTRACTION, YOU WONDER WHAT THE FUTURE IS GOING TO LOOK LIKE. I THINK IT’S BEEN 100 YEARS SINCE OUR ZOO HAD EVER BEEN CLOSED AND THAT WAS FROM THE 1918 FLU, SO WE KNEW IT WAS SERIOUS, BUT IT TURNED AROUND FASTER THAN WE THOUGHT. AND PEOPLE DIDN’T STICK WITH US. THE FUNNY THING IS JUST AS WE CAME INTO THIS SUMMER, WE HAD MEETINGS AND SAID, GOSH, I DON’T KNOW IF PEOPLE ARE GONNA WANT TO GET IN BIG CROWDS AGAIN. AS SOON AS THE MASK MANDATE WENT DOWN, WE WERE SLAMMED. SO, WE’RE AN OUTDOOR PARK AND PEOPLE WANT TO BE HERE AND THEY WANT TO GET OUT. AND SO THAT’S BEEN VERY HEARTENING. WE’RE VERY FORTUNATE, YOU KNOW, ZOOS, BY THEIR NATURE AND POPULAR FAMILIES LOVE ANIMALS, BY OUR VERY HUMAN NATURE, WE’RE SORT OF INTERESTED IN ANIMALS AND INTERESTED IN NATURE. AND THAT CERTAINLY REFLECTS THE SUPPORT WE HAVE FOR OUR ZOO, AND IN THE CROWD, WE HAD LIKE, TODAY, IT’S A NICE DAY IN THE SUMMER, AND WE’RE PROBABLY ABOUT 10,000 PEOPLE HERE TODAY. COURTIS: UP NEXT, HOW TWO ANIMALS PUT THE ZOO IN THE INTERNATIONAL SPOTLIGHT IN A WAY NO ONE COULD EVER IMAGINE. A HIPPO NAMED FIONA. A GORRILLA NAMED HARAMBE. TWO DEFINING MOMENTS IN THE ZOO’S HISTORY, WHEN “LET’S TALK CINCY” CONTINUES. LACEY: WELCOME BACK, EVERYONE. I’M LACEY ROBERTS. JUST SAY THE NAME FIONA, AND YOU IMMEDIATELY THINK OF THE POPULAR AND LOVABLE HIPPO AT THE CINCINNATI ZOO. IN JANUARY 2017, THE FIRST NILE HIPPO WAS BORN AT THE ZOO IN 75 YEARS. FIONA WAS PREMATURE, WEIGHED LESS THAN 30 POUNDS. HER SURVIVAL DEPENDED ON SPECIAL CARE 24 HOURS, SEVEN DAYS A WEEK. HER STORY WENT VIRAL, AND AS THEY SAY, THE REST IS HISTORY. BUT AS YOU WILL SEE, THE ZOO MAY HAVE NEEDED FIONA AS MUCH AS SHE NEEDED THE ZOO, BECAUSE OF THE DEATH OF A SILVERBACK GORILLA NAMED HARAMBE. COURTIS CONTINUES HIS CONVERSATION WITH CINCINNATI ZOO DIRECTOR THANE MAYNARD. COURTIS: THE HIGH POINT, PROBABLY IN YOUR CAREER, YOU WOULD NEVER IMAGINE. FIONA. THIS THIS GIFT THAT BASICALLY WAS GIVEN TO YOU. JUST TALK ABOUT FIONA, HOW THIS ANIMAL HAS BECOME REALLY KNOWN AROUND THE WORLD. >> YOU KNOW, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO EXAGGERATE THE IMPACT SHE’S HAD AND THE POPULARITY SHE’S HAD. AND THINK OF THAT BECAUSE, OF COURSE, SHE IS A NILE HIPPOPOTAMUS, AND THAT’S NOT PRIOR ON ANYONE’S TOP 10 LISTS. YOU’VE COME TO ZOO AND THEY WANT TO SEE GIRAFFES AND TIGERS, ELEPHANTS, AND GORILLAS, AND EVEN WHEN YOU GO TO AFRICA AND YOU SEE HIPPOS, YOU KNOW, THEY’RE BIG AND THEY’RE LAYING IN THE WATER, BUT BOY, YOU SAY ONE, MAYBE PREMATURE HIPPO. SHE CHANGED THE WORLD. WHEN SHE WAS BORN, I’D NEVER SEEN ANYTHING LIKE IT, BECAUSE TYPICALLY, HIPPOS, AS HOOFED ANIMALS ARE VERY PRECOCIOUS, THEY’RE LARGE WHEN THEY’RE BORN. THEY WEIGH ABOUT 100 POUNDS, ABOUT THIS BIG. BORN UNDERWATER, CLIMB IN THEIR MOM’S BACK THE DAY THEY’RE BORN, NURSE UNDERWATER. WELL, SHE WAS ONLY 29 POUNDS. SHE LOOKED LIKE A LITTLE DEFLATED RUGBY BALL, AND WAS BORN JUST ON THAT STRAW. SHE WAS A NEW MOM AND CONFUSED BY IT. AND SHE WASN’T CAPABLE AND TAKE CARE OF HER. AND IT WORKED OUT, AND I MEAN IT TOOK HANDS ON DECK. WE HAD A GROUP BECAME TO BE KNOWN AS TEAM FIONA, WHICH WERE THE ANIMAL KEEPERS AND CAREGIVERS, BUT ALSO THE VET TEAM, THE NUTRITION TEAM AND , PEOPLE FROM ALL OVER THE CITY WHO WEIGHED IN AND WOULD SPEND THE NIGHT WITH HER AND TAKE CARE OF HER. TWO SPECIALIZED NURSES FROM CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL CAME WHEN SHE GOT DEHYDRATED, AS PREEMIES CAN, DIARRHEA AND THEN THEY NEED FLUIDS. WE COULDN’T HIT A VEIN AND THEY CAME OVER THERE. YEAH, THERE’S NEVER BEEN A THING WE HAVEN’T HAD, SO THEY PUT AN IV ENTER AND STEP BY STEP, THE NEXT THING YOU KNOW, WHEN SHE WAS A COUPLE MONTHS OLD. WE STARTED TO REALIZE, HEY, SHE’S GROWING, SHE’S GONNA MAKE IT. BUT THERE WERE A LOT OF NERVOUS TIMES THERE IN THE MIDDLE, BUT YEAH, IT’S FUNNY. WHEN SHE WAS A FEW MONTHS OLD, ONE OF OUR FORMER BOARD CHAIRS CALLED ME AND SAID THEY KNEW HOW TO GREET BB AGAIN, SO YOU CAN HAVE ANOTHER FIONA. SAID THERE’S NEVER GOING TO BE ANOTHER FIONA. THE WAY IT HIT REALLY WAS LIKE LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE. THE SAVED FROM THE BRINK PREMATURE STORY WAS PART OF IT. THE PHENOMENON OF FACEBOOK AND OTHER SOCIAL MEDIA SITES, PEOPLE FOLLOWED HER ON, ON THE WEB. I MEAN THAT YEAR OF 2017, I TRAVELED A LOT. I WENT TO A COUNTRY IN THE OFFICIAL MIDDLE OF NOWHERE IN AFRICA. NEXT TO TOGO, AND I’M SITTING IN A TABLE, THERE’S PEOPLE EATING, AND SOMEONE SEES MY HATS AND CINCINNATI ZOO AND SAYS TO ME, ISN’T THAT WHERE FIONA’S FROM. AND I COULDN’T GET FARTHER AWAY FROM HERE. EARLIER THAT YEAR, I WAS DOWN IN BELIZE IN CENTRAL AMERICA BIRDWATCHING. I GET TO THIS VERY REMOTE SITE WHERE ONLY BIRDWATCHERS GO TO THIS ONE PLACE TO BE ABLE TO WATCH THESE VERY RARE BIRDS. SO, ALL THESE PEOPLE ARE THERE, THEY ARE ONLY INTERESTED IN ANYTHING BIRDS. AND I HEAR THESE TWO LADIES ON THIS BIRD BLIND, AND ONE LADY SAYS TO THE OTHER I’M GLAD THAT , GOT WI FI CUZ I GOTTA FOLLOW BABY FIONA. AND I WENT OVER AND INTRODUCED MYSELF AND SHE’S LIKE, I CAN’T EVEN BELIEVE IT, YOU KNOW, CUZ, YEAH, SHE TOOK OVER THE WORLD, NO DOUBT ABOUT IT. THE NUMBERS OF PEOPLE REACHED THROUGH ALL OF THAT ARE SO VAST THAT IT ALMOST SOUNDS LIKE MAKING IT UP. I MEAN, IN THE BILLIONS OF PEOPLE SAW THAT, YOU KNOW, ON HER PHONE, ON THEIR COMPUTER, SO YEAH, IT’S SOMETHING. COURTIS: IT’S ALMOST HARD TO SAY THAT THIS HIPPO HAS PERSONALITY. YOU KNOW, AND I SAY THAT AS THIS LAYMAN, BUT SHE HAS A LOT OF PERSONALITY. >> WELL, SHE WAS WHICH NEVER HAPPENED WITH AN ANIMAL LIKE A HIPPO, HAND RAISED. SO, SHE WAS SO SMALL, FOR MANY WEEKS, KEEPERS STAYED WITH HER, TO OBSERVE IT THEY LAID THERE HELD HER AND KEPT HER WARM, AND AS SHE GOT OLDER AND STARTED TO SWIM, SHE WOULD SWIM WITH PEOPLE, AND SHE WOULD REST ON THEIR SHOULDER. AND SO YEAH, SHE VERY MUCH IS HUMAN FOCUSED. NORMALLY, HOOFED ANIMALS LIKE A HIPPO OR A ZEBRA WOULDN’T CARE ABOUT PEOPLE. BUT SHE IS INTERESTED AND WILL GO UP TO YOU AND YOUR PHONE, SWIM UP TO YOU AND SAY, YOU MUST BE HERE TO SEE ME. COURTIS: SHE’S THE REAL THING, AND THE PARAPHERNALIA, I MEAN ALL THIS STUFF, THE MARKETING IS — SHE’S THE NEW MICKEY MOUSE. >> IT’S BEEN NEAT I MEAN A TON OF COMPANIES HAVE SUPPORTED THE ZOO AND GET TO SHARE THAT, AND THAT’S TERRIFIC. IT HELPS OBVIOUSLY IN HER CARE AND CARE OF OTHER ANIMALS, HELPS IN OUR CONSERVATION PROGRAM SO IT’S IT’S BEEN NEAT ALL ALONG. IT IS ATTRIBUTED TO HELP PEOPLE LOVE HER. THAT FIRST YEAR WE HAD THE FIONA 1K AND IT WAS, IT WAS A WALK MORE THAN A RUN. AND IT WAS WHEN SHE TURNED 1000 POUNDS. I FORGET WHAT HER AGE WAS. HONEST TO GOODNESS, IT WAS DRIVING RAIN. I MEAN, DRIVING RAIN. THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE HERE WITH THE T-SHIRT ON. I’M COMING FOR THE FIONA THING SO IT’S, IT’S AMAZING. COURTIS: TERRIFYING MOMENTS AT THE ZOO, AND ONLY WLWT HAS VIDEO OF IT. COURTIS: SHE CAME AT A TIME THAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN THE ZOO’S LOWEST POINT. TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT GETTING THROUGH THAT. AND I THINK THAT WHOLE JOURNEY FROM HARAMBE TO FIONA IS SPEAKS VOLUMES ABOUT THE ZOO’S SUCCESS. >> IT DOES. THAT WAS CERTAINLY A LEARNING CURVE FOR ALL OF US BECAUSE THE ZOO WAS PACKED THAT UNFORTUNATE DAY THAT THE BOY GOT IN WITH HARAMBE, AND WE HAD TO SHOOT HIM. AND THAT WAS A DIFFICULT CALL BUT IT WAS A CALL WE WOULD MAKE AGAIN. WE HAVE TO MAKE SURE EVERYONE IS SAFE, BUT IT WAS A TERRIBLE LOSS. AND A TERRIBLE TRAGEDY SO YOU KNOW SOMETIMES TERRIBLE THINGS HAPPEN, BUT IT’S JUST THE TRUTH. I THINK WE GOT THROUGH IT BY BEING STRAIGHT WITH PEOPLE FROM THE FIRST DAY AND SAY THIS IS WHAT HAPPENED. AND NOBODY’S POINTING FINGERS, AND NOBODY’S SECOND GUESSING. WE DID OUR JOB. LACEY: UP NEXT, AS THE ZOO NEARS IT’S 150TH ANNIVERSARY THE FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT. WHEN “LET’S TALK CINCY” CONTINUES. COURTIS: CONSIDER THIS. PRIOR TO THE PANDEMIC, THE CINCINNATI BUSINESS COURIER REPORTED ONLY KINGS ISLAND AND THE MUSEUM CENTER HAD A HIGHER ATTENDANCE. MORE THAN 1.7 MILLION PEOPLE MADE THE ZOO THEIR DESTINATION OF CHOICE IN 2019. THE ZOO IS POSITIONED TO SOAR IN THE FUTURE. >> 3, 2, 1. COURTIS: YOU BROKE GROUND IN JUNE. TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THAT AND THE SECOND PART OF THAT IS JUST GIVE ME YOUR, YOUR VISION OF THE ZOO, GOING FORWARD. >> WELL, YEAH, THIS SUMMER IN JUNE, WE BROKE GROUND ON OUR BIGGEST EXHIBIT EVER ELEPHANT TREK, FIVE-ACRE FACILITY, BIG YARD FOR RELEVANCE. IT WILL ALLOW US TO DOUBLE THE SIZE OF OUR HERD. JUST GETTING STARTED. WE’LL TAKE BEFORE, WE HAVE FOUR NEW ONES THAT ARE FLYING HERE ON AN AIRPLANE NONSTOP ON DHL FROM THE DUBLIN ZOO IN IRELAND. WE HOPE THAT THE BARN — JUST GOING TO BE VERY, VERY BIG IN THE YARD WILL BE READY IN 2023. AND WE’LL BE ABLE TO HAVE THAT. IT WON’T OPEN TO THE PUBLIC UNTIL 2024 BECAUSE THERE’S A NUMBER OF OTHER COMPONENTS. THERE’LL BE AN AREA FOR GIBBONS, WHICH ARE LESSER APES FROM SUMATRA AND BORNEO, THERE’LL BE ASIAN OTTERS, AND A LOT OF OTHER GREAT AMENITIES DOWN THERE. BUT IT’S AN EXCITING TIME AND IT’S A REFLECTION OF, AS I MENTIONED, THAT CAMPAIGN MORE HOME TO ROAM, GIVING ANIMALS MORE SPACE, BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY, IT’S A REFLECTION OF THE ZOOS COMMITMENT TO CONSERVATION. MANY OF THE SPECIES THAT WE HAVE HERE AT OUR ZOO ARE THE SAME SPECIES WE HAD WHEN I SHOWED UP. BUT THERE ARE MANY MORE ENDANGERED SPECIES IN THE WORLD THAN. SO, IN THE CASE OF ASIAN ELEPHANTS, THEY ARE UNDER PRESSURE, BUT WE’RE PARTNERING WITH REALLY GOOD PARTNERS IN NORTHEAST INDIA ON ELEPHANT CONSERVATION PROGRAMS, AND WE HELP TELL THAT STORY. WE HELP SUPPORT THEIR GOOD WORK, AND THERE’S STILL HOPE FOR ELEPHANTS, MUCH AS IN OUR COUNTRY, THERE HAVE BEEN A LOT OF COMEBACKS. YOU KNOW, BALD EAGLES, AMERICAN ALLIGATORS, PEREGRINE FALCONS, GRAY WOLVES, GRAY WHALES, ALL THEIR NUMBERS ARE BACK UP TO WHERE THEY WERE 100 YEARS AGO. AND SO, YOU CAN MAKE CONSERVATION WORK IF YOU REALLY GET AFTER IT. SO, ALL THESE AREAS WHERE THE ZOO IS ENLARGING, WE WERE ALSO INVOLVED, HANDS ON THE GROUND WITH CONSERVATION, WHETHER THAT’S IN AFRICA WITH GORILLAS AND CHEETAHS OR IT’S IN INDIA WITH ELEPHANTS. SO, THE BRICK AND MORTAR IS PART OF IT TO CELEBRATE WHERE THE ZOO IS NOW GROWING, BUT REALLY IT HELPS OUR WHOLE PROGRAM THRIVE. COURTIS: I THINK THE GREAT THING ABOUT THIS ZOO — AND WE WERE TALKING ABOUT THIS EARLIER. IT JUST FILLS YOU WITH HOPE. YOU FEEL LIKE YOU ARE JUST WALKING THROUGH THEIR SPACE HERE AND THAT’S INTENTIONAL. >> RIGHT. AT OUR ZOO, WE ARE FORTUNATE WE HAVE A GREAT TEAM OF THE ANIMAL EXPERTS AND THE CURATORS WORKING WITH ARCHITECTS AND PLANNERS SAY ALRIGHT, HOW CAN WE TAKE WHAT WAS SAY, WE’RE RU GALLEONS THAT WAS A VERY THREADBARE PART OF THE ZOO CALLED WILDLIFE CANYON. ITS HEYDAY WAS BACK IN THE 1990S WHEN WE HAD SUMATRAN RHINOS. THEY WERE THE ONLY ZOO THAT EVER FIGURED OUT HOW TO FEED THEM AND BREED THEM, BUT ONCE THEY LEFT, IT WAS KIND OF THREADBARE, SO WE SCRAPED IT, PUT IN A TERRIFIC EXHIBIT AND IT’S ONE OF THOSE GOING FROM GOOD TO GREAT. BECAUSE MANY PARTS OF THIS ZOO WERE BUILT IN THE 1930S, AND THEY WERE REVOLUTIONARY THEN. YOU KNOW, OUR MONKEY ISLAND OR VALTTERI THE BEAR LINE, THE 90 YEARS LATER THEY’RE WORN OUT, SO A LOT OF OUR NEW EXHIBITS ARE DOING JUST THAT, SAYING LET’S REINVENT THIS AND FIGURE OUT HOW TO HAVE SOMETHING’S REALLY GREAT FOR THESE ANIMALS. COURTIS: THAT DOES IT FOR FOR THE PROGRAM. THANKS FOR JOINING US. WE WILL SEE YOU NEXT WEEK FOR ANOTHER EDITION OF “LET’S TALK CINCY.”
Cincinnati Zoo director: ‘Fiona changed the world’
Fiona the hippo has changed the world.“It is impossible to exaggerate the impact she’s had. Think of that, she’s a Nile hippopotamus!” said Cincinnati Zoo director Thane Maynard.More than four years after her birth, Maynard reflected on Fiona’s incredible survival story and her massive worldwide impact.Weighing only 29 pounds, the little hippo was born six weeks premature at the Cincinnati Zoo on Jan. 24, 2017. She weighed 25 pounds less than the lowest recorded birth weight for her species. “She looked like a little rugby ball,” said Maynard, recalling Fiona’s surprise entrance into the world in 2017. Fiona’s early arrival marked a challenging time for the zoo. She almost didn’t make it.The little hippo survived because of her animal care team’s tireless efforts. Nurses were brought in from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital to give the hippo IVs, providing her with needed fluids to live. Now 4 years old, Fiona is remarkable for being unremarkable. She currently weighs well over 1,700 pounds, consistent with a normal hippo her age. It’s her survival story — and massive personality — that made Fiona a worldwide phenomenon. “She changed the world. When she was born, I had never seen anything like it,” Maynard said.“The way it hit was really like lightning in a bottle. The saved-from-the-brink premature story was part of it, and phenomenon of Facebook and other social media sites as people followed her on the web.” It was a story made for social media. Fiona’s story was shared across the globe, and photos and videos of Cincinnati’s hippo darling were shared widely. The little hippo had a big personality — something Maynard attributes to her surroundings. “Very much, she’s human-focused. Normally hoofed animals like a hippo, zebra or a giraffe couldn’t care less about people – unless they have food. In her case, you go over there with a camera or your phone, she’ll swim right up like ‘You must be here to see me,’” Maynard said. She was hand-raised by humans, and that human-focused quality has stuck with her. It’s something that has made Fiona a worldwide star and an ambassador for her species. Now, Fiona is the starring attraction at the zoo — the Mickey Mouse of Cincinnati. Prior to her arrival, Maynard said the focus was on other animals — giraffes, elephants and rhinos. Fiona got the world interested in hippopotamuses, Maynard said. “She took over the world, no doubt about it,” Maynard said. “The number of people she’s reached through all of that are so vast, it’s almost like you’re making it up. I mean, in the billions of people!”
Fiona the hippo has changed the world.
“It is impossible to exaggerate the impact she’s had. Think of that, she’s a Nile hippopotamus!” said Cincinnati Zoo director Thane Maynard.
More than four years after her birth, Maynard reflected on Fiona’s incredible survival story and her massive worldwide impact.
Weighing only 29 pounds, the little hippo was born six weeks premature at the Cincinnati Zoo on Jan. 24, 2017. She weighed 25 pounds less than the lowest recorded birth weight for her species.
“She looked like a little rugby ball,” said Maynard, recalling Fiona’s surprise entrance into the world in 2017.
Fiona’s early arrival marked a challenging time for the zoo. She almost didn’t make it.
The little hippo survived because of her animal care team’s tireless efforts. Nurses were brought in from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital to give the hippo IVs, providing her with needed fluids to live.
Now 4 years old, Fiona is remarkable for being unremarkable. She currently weighs well over 1,700 pounds, consistent with a normal hippo her age.
It’s her survival story — and massive personality — that made Fiona a worldwide phenomenon.
“She changed the world. When she was born, I had never seen anything like it,” Maynard said.
“The way it hit was really like lightning in a bottle. The saved-from-the-brink premature story was part of it, and phenomenon of Facebook and other social media sites as people followed her on the web.”
It was a story made for social media. Fiona’s story was shared across the globe, and photos and videos of Cincinnati’s hippo darling were shared widely.
The little hippo had a big personality — something Maynard attributes to her surroundings.
“Very much, she’s human-focused. Normally hoofed animals like a hippo, zebra or a giraffe couldn’t care less about people – unless they have food. In her case, you go over there with a camera or your phone, she’ll swim right up like ‘You must be here to see me,’” Maynard said.
She was hand-raised by humans, and that human-focused quality has stuck with her. It’s something that has made Fiona a worldwide star and an ambassador for her species.
Now, Fiona is the starring attraction at the zoo — the Mickey Mouse of Cincinnati.
Prior to her arrival, Maynard said the focus was on other animals — giraffes, elephants and rhinos. Fiona got the world interested in hippopotamuses, Maynard said.
“She took over the world, no doubt about it,” Maynard said. “The number of people she’s reached through all of that are so vast, it’s almost like you’re making it up. I mean, in the billions of people!”