COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - There is excitement in the air at Riverbanks Zoo's gorilla base camp again less than a year after the zoo experienced the loss of an infant gorilla.
We closely followed the historic pregnancy of Macy the gorilla last Spring through our series "Beyond the Banks." The birth of the infant was to mark the first time a baby gorilla would be born at Riverbanks and was all a part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Gorillas Species Survival Plan.
But hope springs eternal in nature as Macy's half-sister, Kazi, is pregnant.
"This is so exciting for us, it's a new chapter for us if you will," John Davis, curator of mammals at Riverbanks Zoo, said. "After Macy's pregnancy and unfortunate outcome, it set the staff back a little bit, and we were all supporting one another and monitoring the troop."
There was always a possibility that there could be problems during or after delivery despite survival rates of western lowland gorillas are higher in captivity than in the wild. The latest Association of Zoos and Aquariums Gorilla Species Survival Plan research estimated that 81.9 percent of females and 73.3 percent of males survive within the first year of captivity.
Davis previously said the zoo was hoping to hit those margins.
"So we're hoping for that 70-80 percent success for all newborn offspring born in captivity, but we do have to plan for that percentage of births that are not normal or may have complications," Davis said.
Keepers allowed Macy all the time she needed to grieve with the infant. They say the troop rallied around Macy and grew closer than they were before.
"I think the troop as a family got closer, and that to me was kind of a positive," senior keeper Emily Guertin said.
Davis added it was most important that the family troop, made up of three females, Macy, 12, Kazi, 12, and Acacia, 23, and male Cenzoo, 22, moved forward together after Macy's loss.
Davis said the health and bonding of the troop was most paramount as the zoo moved forward on breeding practices.
"We were very, very convinced that they were ready," Davis said.
Macy and Kazi actively bred with male Cenzoo during the summer.
Keepers received a positive pregnancy test for Kazi in late October 2017.
"Based on the readings that we observed, she has a little bit bigger of a gestation window, so we're not quite sure of her due date," Guertin said. A gorilla's gestational period is 37 weeks -- a little more than 8 months.
Keepers at Riverbanks are estimating Kazi is likely four to five months along and could deliver anytime between May and July. They add that they will have a better idea of an exact due date as vets are able to get clearer readings of the infant's size during ultrasounds.
We will be following the journey of Kazi's pregnancy just like we did last spring. We recently witnessed Kazi's latest ultrasound and we will be sharing those exclusive images during her next Beyond the Banks story this Wednesday at 6 p.m.
Keepers say they are moving forward cautiously optimistic about the success of Kazi's pregnancy even after last year's loss.
"Nature is nature, anything can happen and I know that in my head for when it's Kazi's time," Guertin said. "Of course, I always hope, but at least I know now that If if doesn't go exactly the way I want, I know is going to be okay, and that gives me a little reassurance."
Also, if you're curious -- considering the viral success of April the giraffe's live baby camera last year -- Riverbanks said they will not be providing a live feed of Kazi's pregnancy.
Riverbanks says Western Lowland gorillas are considered critically endangered with only about 100,000 of the species remaining in the wild.
Stay tuned for exclusive access for the latest on Kazi's pregnancy through "Beyond the Banks."