Gorillas in our midst: Como Park Zoo opens new Gorilla Forest this weekend

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If you thought the polar bears were cool, Como Park Zoo and Conservatory’s latest $11 million exhibit redesign is just in time to welcome in the summer. Yesterday was the grand opening of Gorilla Forest, the largest all-mesh gorilla enclosure in North America. Six of the seven gorillas are new to Como Zoo. Schroeder, Alice, Nne, Dara, Jabir, Virgil, and Samson are being introduced to the public for the first time.

Festivities for the Gorilla Forest grand opening will last all weekend with African drumming and dance from Duniya Drum and Dance group, recycled bead making, Primate Keeper talks, and an opportunity to collect trading cards from the exhibit stations.

The exhibit was designed to expand the habitat for the gorillas giving them more space to play, climb, and feed, while displaying their extraordinary family and social dynamics to the public. The outdoor exhibit and expanded indoor facilities will give visitors an up close and personal view of the gorillas.

Funding for Como’s newest attraction is made possible with public investments from the City of St. Paul and the MN Legislature. With over 2 million visitors every year Representative Alice Hausman (DFL) 66A says it’s worth the investment. “People are coming to understand [Como Zoo] not just as a thrill or unnecessary amenity, but as part of the city. It helps draw people here to live, work, and visit,” she said. “Como Zoo is a state asset to be enjoyed for generations to come.”

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman emphasized that Como Zoo is one of the last free zoos in the United States. “Kids come here to learn about habitat as future biologists and ecologists. It’s about education, learning, stimulation…sparking their natural curiosity,” he said.

Several public officials including Representative Hausman, Representative John Lesch (DFL) 66B, St. Paul Council Member Russ Stark and Mayor Coleman took part in a unique ribbon cutting ceremony, accentuated with banana leaves from the horticultural garden in the conservatory. Zoo staff also distributed bananas to early visitors in the crowd.

Ribbon cutting photo: Mayor Chris Coleman; Representative Alice Hausman; Representative John Lesch; Como Campus Manager, Michelle Furrer; Como Friends President, Jackie Sticha; Como Friends Board Chair, Anne Field; Como Friends Board Member, Nancy Nelson; and St. Paul Parks and Recrecation Director, Michael Hahm