Earlier this week, Time Magazine announced its person of the year - people of the year, in this case, as they chose to honor the women who have spoken out against sexual assault as part of the #metoo movement. Prior to that, there was a lot of speculation over who should receive the honor, fueled mostly in part by President Trump's announcement that he would "probably" be Man of the Year, but wasn't interested.
Cincinnati Zoo decided to get ahead of the drama and through a hat of their own into the ring.
It's tongue-in-cheek and very cute, but it did make me wonder. Why isn't there an Animal of the Year Award? Just like people, animals have the power to make the news and change the world. For example, in 2015 the world was gripped by the story of Cecil, the Zimbawean lion who was killed by an American trophy hunter. Cecil's death started an enormous conversation on the ethics and value of sport hunting, and he became a rallying cry for those opposed to the practice.
In 2016, of course, there was Harambe. Like Cecil, Harambe's death stirred a tremendous amount of attention and debate. Unlike Cecil, his death largely denigrated to a series of tasteless memes and jokes. Any chance to turn it into a force for good for gorilla conservation seems to have been lost.
Which brings us to Fiona...
2017 has not, taken as a whole, been a positive year in the eyes of many. Besides the sexual assault scandals detailed by Time, there have been rampant mass-shootings, natural disasters, terrorism, political unrest, and, oh yeah, the prospect of nuclear holocaust. And in the midst of that mess, a premature baby hippo is born. Fiona's story did what no politician or celebrity has been able to do - give people something to root for as her story played out in the public eye. It didn't matter who you were - everyone wanted that little hippo to make it. And, despite tremendous odds, she did, and is now a thriving star.
If there is any animal that made 2017 bearable for the world at large, it would have to be Fiona.