After months of anticipation, the wait is finally over. Baby Arlene, the Western Lowland Gorilla, will be seen clinging to her mom, Dara, in the indoor exhibit of the Primate Building at Como Zoo on Friday, May 8. The female gorilla was born in the evening hours of Sunday, February 22, 2015, to first-time mother Dara inside the day room of the Gorilla Forest exhibit.
“Dara is a fantastic mother,” says Como Zoo senior keeper Allison Jungheim. “Right from the get-go she knew how to hold the baby properly, and she’s got a very nurturing way about her. When she’s holding the baby, she’ll tap her fingers, and bounce her up and down a little. It’s a very human-like way to soothe a baby.”
Mother and baby have spent most of March and April in behind-the-scenes bedrooms bonding and establishing a successful pattern of breastfeeding. First-time father Schroeder, the 29-year-old silverback, is never far from their side. “He’s become Dara’s 500-pound shadow. He’s always checking in with her, and when she moves, he moves,” says Jungheim. “As the baby grows it’s going to be really fun to see how he plays with her.”
As a tribute to the late Arlene Scheunemann, often referred to as Como’s “Zoo Mom,” the baby is named “Arlene”. Beginning in 1968 and spanning 45 years, Arlene Scheunemann was mother to four human children and foster mom to over 200 wild animals in her home.
Mother’s Day weekend is a great time to come and see all the new life at Como this season, from the tiny Emperor tamarin born on March 31 to first-time mother Lara, to the nearly sky-high Skye the giraffe, born in November.
*NOTE Arlene and the family troop may not always be on exhibit due to the weather or as circumstances dictate.
Photo credit Jackie Scherer