COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - We're getting our first exclusive look at what Riverbanks Zoo keepers hope will be the first baby gorilla to ever be born and raised at the zoo.
Just last spring when we filmed Macy the gorilla's ultrasound checkups at Riverbanks Zoo, her half-sister, Kazi, short for Kamikaze, was often seen spinning and flipping around the barn.
Keepers expected Kazi to act like a big sister to the expected infant considering her already over-sized personality. But keepers noticed a change in Kazi after the unexpected death of Macy's baby.
"Throughout Macy's pregnancy and throughout the situation that occurred after, she really just held her own and was a great support system to Macy," senior keeper Emily Guertin said. "It really just shocked us all a little bit."
"As she supported Macy in a mature and nurturing way, it was really quite amazing to see her transformation and behavior," John Davis, curator of mammals at Riverbanks Zoo, said.
Keepers say they felt confident both Macy and Kazi would make perfect moms as the troop healed. It just so happened Kazi got pregnant first.
"She has settled down a little bit," Guertin said. "She is still our playful gorilla, but as her pregnancy has developed, you can kind of tell."
"Her socialization rank is starting to move up as they normally do in the wild," Davis added. "We have noticed that her interactions and cohesion with Macy just continues to be strengthened."
Keepers say Kazi's ultrasounds to date have actually gone a little smoother than they did with Macy.
"So with Macy we didn't have the right equipment right away, so finally when we got to see the baby it was a little bigger," Guertin said. "So we were only seeing head and spine and heart."
But the images our cameras captured of Kazi's infant during her ultrasound showed an active and wiggly baby.
"That's spine right there and then I think these are back legs coming down here," Riverbanks Zoo senior veterinarian Martha Weber said as she talked us through the ultrasound. "So the head's probably tucked away down here."
Kazi's infant continued to move around in her belly during the ultrasound we witnessed and was actually positioned upside down.
"Her baby definitely seems a little more wiggly," Guertin said. "I don't know if it's just because Kazi likes to spin, so maybe will take after Kazi!"
"The detailed images are just amazing, and the technology we have to support this and monitor that through this pregnancy is pretty amazing," Davis added.
Keepers say Kazi has not had the appetite that Macy did during pregnancy, and they have been worried about her weight gain since the very beginning.
"Macy received just an overall increase in her whole diet, whereas Kazi needs other food items that are not currently in her diet," Guertin said. "So, we did a trial with her and found out she loves butternut squash and sweet potatoes, and she likes them cooked. So we spoil her a little bit every day."
Keepers add Macy has been super supportive during Kazi's pregnancy. It's important to note there's still a chance Macy could also become pregnant.
Some have asked what zoo staff may be doing differently to get ready for this infant's birth after the loss of Macy's baby last year. Keepers have shared that they truly believe they did everything they could last year to prepare Macy for the birth of her baby. They knew while preparing for the infant, there was a 20-30 percent chance that the baby not make it based on national statistics, but keepers were hopeful to be on the good end of those odds.
Keepers say the loss of the infant did draw the troop closer together. And their bond was one of the many things that let them know they were ready for this new chapter.
"Every sad situation has good things that come out of it and so I try to stay focused on that," Guertin said. "Nature is nature, anything can happen and I know that in my head for when it's Kazi's time. Of course I always hope, but at least I know now that If if doesn't go exactly the way I want I know they're going to be okay it gives me a little reassurance."
Tune in tonight at 6 p.m. for our exclusive Beyond the Banks