COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - We are officially on baby gorilla watch at Riverbanks Zoo!
We have entered the window of time that Kazi, the 12-year-old western lowland gorilla, could give birth.
A successful delivery would mean history for Riverbanks Zoo, which has never had an infant gorilla be born and raised there.
While Kazi's baby is too big for vets to see in whole on the ultrasound, zoo veterinarians just recently measured its heart rate at 120 beats per minute. (Watch video above for latest ultrasound!)
They add that heart rate is right on target for a near-term baby gorilla.
Zoo vets also say it appears the baby is in a good position for delivery- which is key.
It was last May that Kazi's half-sister Macy delivered an infant that was born breech. Unfortunately, the baby did not survive.
"I did not get a good view of the baby's position today, but the last few ultrasounds we have confirmed that the babies position is head down," said Martha Weber, Director of Animal Health for Riverbanks Zoo. "With Macy, right up unto the time she delivered, she was in a breech position. As long as Kazi maintains the baby in a head down position, that's hopefully not a concern for us."
Vets say they will continue to keep an eye on Kazi, but add she could give birth at any time at night or on exhibit during the day.
They add their goal is ultimately not to intervene with the birthing process and let nature take its course.
"We would really prefer not to intervene because if we had to take Kazi in for a cesarean section… she has to wake up from anesthesia, she has to bond with the baby while she's still waking up from anesthesia, and there's always the risk to the baby because of the surgery," Weber said. "So even as we're monitoring, we really want her to be able to deliver on her own."
Weber adds a C-section would be a last resort if vets thought Kazi was in danger. Because of breeding dates, vets have estimated Kazi could give birth anytime between now and late July. But at this time, they believe it will happen sooner rather than later.