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Call Her Professor Fiona: Baby Hippo An Educational Force

The combined Fiona library of books by various authors and illustrators has sold tens of thousands so far.

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In this Tuesday, June 26, 2018, photo, Fiona, a baby Nile Hippopotamus sleeps as visitors stop by her enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden in Cincinnati.
In this Tuesday, June 26, 2018, photo, Fiona, a baby Nile Hippopotamus sleeps as visitors stop by her enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden in Cincinnati. VOA

The Cincinnati Zoo’s famous premature baby hippo does more than delight social media fans and help sell a wide range of merchandise. She’s also an educational and literary force; heroine of a half-dozen books so far and a popular subject for library and classroom activities.

The latest book is “Saving Fiona” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) written by the zoo’s director, Thane Maynard.

“She has taught us a lot,” Maynard said. It’s believed Fiona is the smallest hippo ever to survive. Born nearly two months early, she was 29 pounds (13 kilograms), a third the size of a typical full-term Nile hippo and unable to stand or nurse.

A zoo staffer hand-milked her mother Bibi, and Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington helped develop a special formula. Nurses from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital were enlisted to put in a hippo IV.

“We were a nervous wreck every day,” Maynard said of Fiona’s first six months after her birth in January 2017.

His book is aimed at young readers, telling Fiona’s against-the-odds story while loading in facts about hippos, such as that they can outrun humans and are herbivores that can be dangerous because of their size of up to 5,000 pounds (2,267.96 kilograms).

“Part of the zoo’s mission is public education,” Maynard said. “(The book) is reaching kids and families with a message of hope … never giving up.”

The combined Fiona library of books by various authors and illustrators has sold tens of thousands so far.

In this Tuesday, June 26, 2018 photo, Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden Thane Maynard poses for a photograph beside the enclosure of Fiona, their baby Nile Hippopotamus, in Cincinnati.
In this Tuesday, June 26, 2018 photo, Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden Thane Maynard poses for a photograph beside the enclosure of Fiona, their baby Nile Hippopotamus, in Cincinnati. VOA

Educators say students are attracted to lessons themed around animals. Fiona has been on the cover of three Scholastic News Magazines that reached millions of students with stories accompanied by reading exercises or math formulas such as finding how many bathtubs the water in her zoo would fill.

“Everybody just falls in love with her,” said Stephanie Smith, editorial director for Scholastic News grades 3-6. “Kids will just gobble it up. It makes teaching easy.”

Mike Shriberg, Great Lakes regional director for the National Wildlife Federation, said conservationists see celebrity-type attention to Fiona that glosses over the serious challenges for hippos and other animals facing shrinking habitats and illegal hunting.

“There is a deeper message to be conveyed,” he said.

However, Shriberg, who said growing up in Cincinnati as a frequent zoo visitor helped lead him into wildlife conservation, said the Fiona mania – which has seen her image marketed on items from playing cards to beer – is a positive development overall.

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“We are certainly in favor of anything that is engaging people with wildlife, and Fiona has been a phenomenal success,” he said. “You’ve got the American public and people around the world really caring about hippos and animals, through the lens of Fiona.” (VOA)

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What Lies Beneath These Invisible Footprints? Find it out Here

Researchers discover the invisible footprints hiding since the end of the last ice age

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Footprints
Researchers have discovered the invisible footprints hiding since the end of the last ice age. Pixabay

Using a special type of radar, researchers have discovered the invisible footprints hiding since the end of the last ice age — and what lies beneath them.

The fossilised footprints reveal a wealth of information about how humans and animals moved and interacted with each other 12,000 years ago, according to the study published in the journal Scientific Reports.

“We never thought to look under footprints, but it turns out that the sediment itself has a memory that records the effects of the animal’s weight and momentum in a beautiful way,” said study lead author Thomas Urban from Cornell University in the US.

“It gives us a way to understand the biomechanics of extinct fauna that we never had before,” Urban said.

The researchers examined the footprints of humans, mammoths and giant sloths in the White Sands National Monument in New Mexico.

Invisible footprints
The fossilised footprints reveal a wealth of information about how humans and animals moved and interacted with each other 12,000 years ago. Pixabay

Using ground-penetrating radar (GPR), they were able to resolve 96 per cent of the human tracks in the area under investigation, as well as all of the larger vertebrate tracks.

“But there are bigger implications than just this case study,” Urban said.

“The technique could possibly be applied to many other fossilised footprint sites around the world, potentially including those of dinosaurs. We have already successfully tested the method more broadly at multiple locations within White Sands,” Urban added.

“While these ‘ghost’ footprints can become invisible for a short time after rain and when conditions are just right, now, using geophysics methods, they can be recorded, traced and investigated in 3D to reveal Pleistocene animal and human interactions, history and mechanics in genuinely exciting new ways,” said study co-author Sturt Manning.

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GPR is a nondestructive method that allows researchers to access hidden information without the need for excavation.

The sensor – a kind of antenna – is dragged over the surface, sending a radio wave into the ground. The signal that bounces back gives a picture of what’s under the surface. (IANS)