COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Riverbanks Zoo's pregnant gorilla, Macy, is now about three weeks from giving birth, and while her belly continues to grow, so does the importance of her check-ups with veterinarians and keepers.
"As we get closer, I would love to just see overall the size of the baby," Riverbanks Zoo senior veterinarian Martha Webber said.
Vets have pinpointed the birth will happen sometime between May 8 and June 13. The range is estimated because vets have not been able to get an exact skull measurement of the infant. However, they have been able to keep an eye on the infant's heartbeat through the weekly ultrasounds, and they have every indication the baby is healthy.
Before we know it, the baby will be out of mommy's belly, and that's something everyone wants to know if we'll get to watch in real-time just like we watched April the giraffe's birth.
"You know we gave that a long consideration with modern technology and webcams as it is a common practice to post some of the significant births," Riverbanks Zoo's curator of mammals John Davis said.
But Davis says there were several reasons they have decided not to post the birth live as it is happening.
"One is the gestation," Davis said. "We set it up sometime in May for the delivery, but we don't know the exact date so sometimes those can be drawn out very, very long and the anticipation grows and becomes a distraction for staff and for guests, and we just want to let things happen and let nature happen."
Davis says they are setting up cameras inside the gorilla barn, but they will want to review that footage first.
"Sometimes first-time mothers and gorillas, in general, can do things that some viewers may find concerning," Davis said. "They don't always cradle them nicely like we would do our own human babies. Sometimes they hold them by one leg, and it looks a little concerning, of course. The mother knows what they're doing. We certainly don't want to cause any unnecessary alarm or concern."
There's also a very real chance Macy could be on exhibit and not in the gorilla barn when she gives birth.
"It's business as usual, and we're going to continue to manage her with normal care and normal routine so there's a lot of unknowns out there," Davis said.
Another real unknown is the chance the baby may not survive. While survival rates of western lowland gorillas are higher in captivity than in the wild, there is still a possibility there could be problems during or after delivery.
"So we're hoping for that 70 to 80 percent success for all newborn offspring born in captivity, but we do have to plan for that percentage of birth that are not normal or may have complications," Davis said.
Davis says staff will be working around the clock for the first 48 hours after the birth as Macy and the infant's health and safety are their number one priority. The ultimate goal, however, is for them to step in as little as possible so Macy can be a full-time mama.
"She has all the potential to be a great mother and we believe that," Davis said. "She may do things that are a little odd, of course with no harm to the baby, but we're going to focus on all the things that we need to focus on with ensuring that everything works out as planned."
Davis also recently shared that if for some reason, the baby does not take to Macy or the other females in the troop, the zoo is working with other AZA zoos and can find it a home where hopefully it will connect with another female gorilla.
While the birth of the infant gorilla will not be streamed live, once the video is reviewed that is something we hope to share with you here.