St. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – Visitors to St. Paul’s Como Zoo are in for a special and rare treat in the coming months.

For the first time in the zoo’s 117-year history, staff are preparing for the births of two gorillas.

A recent ultrasound procedure on one of the two pregnant females confirms the gorilla fetus is just weeks from its birth.

One look into a gorilla’s eyes and you can’t help but make a connection.

It’s nothing short of mesmerizing, watching a creature with so many human traits.

“I think they’re cool. It’s fantastic,” Como Zoo visitor, Gen Krueger, said.

But it’s the approaching births from the two expectant females that’s creating most of the buzz.

That’s because never in the zoo’s long history has one of its gorillas given birth.

“I know they were trying this winter to get them pregnant, and so it’s really exciting that there’;; be a new little addition to the zoo,” visitor, Brynn Yu, said.

Primate zookeeper Geoff Jungheim will have a front row seat. He’s keeping watch from his office, which has a large window into the gorilla’s private enclosure.

Twelve-year old Alice could give birth any day, and the younger Dara should deliver her baby sometime in January.

“From what I’ve been told first time moms tend to go a little bit early, so we’re crossing our fingers and keeping a close eye on her,” Jungheim said.

Geoff and his staff recently gave Dara an ultrasound and were able to capture some rare images of the very active fetus. Everything appears as it should, for a gorilla.

“It’s amazing to be able to get a look inside like that and see what’s going on. The baby’s moving around in there. It’s fantastic,” Jungheim said.

And like any expectant father, the 530-pound Schroeder is both protective and edgy. One more reason staff here will let this play out as naturally as possible and plans on keeping watch by webcam.

Western lowland gorillas are being decimated by poaching, habitat loss and even diseases like Ebola in their native Africa.

That’s why Como is working with other zoos to help both educate and raise money for efforts to preserve them.

The zoo is taking part in a project called the Gorilla Species Survival Plan. The objective is not to reintroduce the species into the wild, rather, use them as ambassadors to help create greater awareness for the desperate plight of wild populations.

If you’d like to see Dara’s ultrasound, visit Como Zoo online.

Bill Hudson

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