‘The Fiona Show’ premiering on Facebook Watch documents the Cincinnati Zoo’s labor of love to keep the little hippo alive.
The world’s most famous hippo has her own show.
“The Fiona Show” debuting on Facebook’s new Watch video platform Tuesday documents the labor of love and hundreds of thousands of dollars that went into keeping the Cincinnati Zoo’s then 29-pound hippopotamus calf alive when she was born six weeks premature in January.
Little Fiona went viral as her round-the-clock care team of zookeepers, vets and even NICU nurses from the local children’s hospital posted pictures of her touch-and-go progress on social media. She was too tiny and weak to walk, nurse or regulate her own body temperature. So local businesses began hawking #TeamFiona themed merch, beer, cookies, ice cream and playing cards to raise more than $200,000 to cover her medication, formula, pools and other newborn needs.
— Cincinnati Zoo (@CincinnatiZoo) February 20, 2017
Now at seven months old, Fiona is a healthy 462-pound bundle of joy who’s back in her mother and father’s care in the zoo’s Hippo Cove. But the weekly web series will take #TeamFiona fans behind-the-scenes during those fraught early days through previously unseen footage and candid interviews with her caretakers.
“It’s a great opportunity to showcase how hard they worked,” Angela Hatke, one of the show producers and a publicity manager for the zoo, told Moneyish. “It was seriously scary for them. And they were so deeply invested in just keeping her alive that they didn’t get to reflect on it. So we get to hear from them, and hopefully this shows how dedicated zoos like ours are to conservation and wildlife.”
And for Fiona fans who can’t get enough of the photogenic little hippo’s pix and videos posted on Facebook and Twitter, there’s tons of never-before-seen footage coming to the series for them to drool over.
“Our video guy has hours and hours of footage that we didn’t use on our social media pages yet. I have 6,000 pictures and videos of her on my own phone,” said Hatke. “So on ‘The Fiona Show’ you’ll see the footage of her birth, which we’ve never shown before. She was so small, it’s crazy.”
The premiere “Fiona Show” episode is about six minutes long, and Hatke said they plan to hover around that length for their open-ended number of episodes. “Facebook Watch has made it really easy. They gave us the freedom to make them however long we want,” she said. They haven’t edited the second episode yet, but she says they plan to frame future clips around Fiona’s first-year milestones, dropping a new episode a week.
Facebook launched its Watch platform earlier in August as a YouTube competitor to host shows that tell a story or share a common theme. Humans of New York is also bringing its own poignant social media posts to life with a 12-episode Facebook Watch series premiering this week.
And this hippo of Cincinnati has the personality and perseverance to go up against any HONY post. “People got really invested in her story, because we didn’t know if it was going to be good or bad, if we would have a happy ending,” said Hatke. “Hers is just a story of hope, and with everything so negative on social media now, to have this adorable hippo that’s fighting for her life really struck a lot of people.”
Fiona can now touch on her tippy toes!! Keep growing Fiona! pic.twitter.com/A9vAdTMdhN
— Cincinnati Zoo (@CincinnatiZoo) August 27, 2017
Fiona’s life-and-death struggle has also been a cash cow for the zoo, helping to spike a 22% increase in attendance this summer over previous years. April the giraffe gave the Animal Adventure Park near Binghamton, N.Y. a similar baby bump earlier this year when the live cam set to capture her giving birth also went viral, raking in $140,000 for the zoo, and inspiring a GoFundMe campaign for April and her calf that raised $170,510.
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