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Baby hippo Fiona explores her exhibit for first time at Cincinnati Zoo, one year after Harambe's death

CINCINNATI -- A popular baby hippo at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden has made its news media debut.

Fiona stepped out Wednesday with cameras rolling as she navigated the 9-foot-deep Hippo Cove pool. The zoo emphasizes she isn't ready for public display -- but the media-only event was a step toward that.

Fiona was born Jan. 24, weighing 29 pounds. She overcame a few health scares and now weighs more than 100 pounds.

CBS affiliate WKRC-TV in Cincinnati was at the event Wednesday and live streamed it on Facebook.

The Cincinnati Zoo also posted this image on Twitter showing Fiona exploring her habitat:

WKRC reported that there was an official proclamation from the mayor's office read during the event:

Fiona already has one big fan as WKRC's reporter snapped this adorable picture and posted it to Instagram:

Video updates such as Fiona taking a bottle, splashing in a pool or learning to run have drawn tens of millions of online views. Thousands of people have bought Team Fiona T-shirts and have eaten Fiona-themed bakery treats.

A brewery plans to introduce a beer dedicated to her.

WKRC reports that Fiona is expected to go on display to the public some point this summer.

Earlier this year, the nursing staff at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) delivered a care package to Fiona.

To support baby Fiona and the zoo staffers working around the clock to care for her, nurses at the hospital gave the tiny hippo the same gift they give parents of newborns who "graduate" from the NICU.

The gift basket included a baby book filled with details about Fiona's early days, a stuffed animal, a pacifier and four superhero capes signed by 200 staff members. And one of the most special gifts: What NICU nurses call "beads of courage," a strand of beads representing each of the baby's medical or life milestones while in their care.

Fiona was born six weeks premature. Cincinnati Zoo, WKRC-TV

Meanwhile, after months of backlash over the zoo's fatal shooting of Harambe, a gorilla who became a pop culture phenomenon in death, Fiona is the center of attention.

"She has brought everyone together," said Jenna Wingate, one of Fiona's caregivers. "It brings us to tears sometimes."

Zoos "are utilizing new ways to give the public a firsthand account of caring for the animals at their facilities," said Rob Vernon, spokesman for the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, based in Silver Spring, Maryland. "Fiona is a great example of using social and traditional media to tell her story."

The strong positive response to Fiona has helped what the zoo's director has described as a healing process after Harambe.

"It's been a very welcome thing," Wingate said.

A premature hippo named Fiona snuggles with a stuffed animal that was given to her as a gift by Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden/Natalie Holthaus
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