Como Park Zoo is celebrating the birth early Wednesday of a baby boy gorilla to Alice -- the first gorilla birth in the 55 years that Como has housed the large primates.
According to a news release, the baby weighs about four pounds and "appears healthy, strong and bonding with Alice."
Because bonding between gorilla mothers and their babies is so important, zoo officials plan to keep Alice and her son off exhibit for several weeks.
It's the first of two expected gorilla births at Como. Alice's housemate, Dara, is expecting and likely to give birth later next month or in January.
In both cases, the father is Schroeder, 29, who has lived at Como since he was a lad of five. Alice is 12, and Dara is 11.
Alice and Dara were among six gorillas moved to Como last year to live in the zoo's new $11 million Gorilla Forest exhibit, the largest all-mesh gorilla enclosure in North America.
Como's gorillas, while born in the United States, are descended from gorillas that inhabit the forests of central and west Africa. The gorillas, called Western lowland, are critically endangered.
Gorilla gestation takes about eight months. About 4 in 10 baby gorillas die in the first several months, which is one reason why zookeepers will be keeping a close eye on the new mother and baby. But zoo staffers won't intervene unless the baby's health is in jeopardy or the mother isn't doing her job.
Photo: Como Park Zoo & Conservatory
In the debate over whether to install special glass for the billion-dollar Minnesota Vikings’ stadium in downtown Minneapolis to protect migratory birds, St. Paul wants to make one thing clear: it’s for the birds.
Three City Council members next week will introduce a resolution calling on the Vikings and the Minnesota Sports Facility Authority “to build a bird-proof stadium” with glass walls that are visible to birds rather than completely transparent. To do otherwise, the resolution says, could result in the deaths of thousands of birds.
Why should this matter to St. Paul? For one thing, the city shares with Minneapolis the Mississippi River, a corridor used every spring and fall by 40 percent of the migratory birds in North America. The more birds colliding with the stadium in Minneapolis, the fewer will find their way through the capital city.
And the city wants to stand in solidarity with the Minneapolis City Council, which passed a similar resolution nearly three months ago.
Both St. Paul and Minneapolis signed a federal urban conservation treaty for migratory birds in 2011. Minneapolis’ stadium implementation committee, the state Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Audubon Society all think bird-safe glass is the way to go.
But the St. Paul resolution is unlikely to change the minds of the Vikings or the stadium commission. They’ve already pointed out that specially fritted glass, containing tiny ceramic beads to make it less reflective, would add $1.1 million to the stadium budget.
And they say it could reduce the glass’ transparency for human eyes. If you’re going to design a downtown pyramid wrapped in 200,000 square feet of glass, you ought to be able to see in or out as well as possible, so the argument goes.
St. Paul Public Works Director Rich Lallier will retire next month after 36 years working for the city, Mayor Chris Coleman announced Monday.
Top mayoral adviser Nancy Homans will become interim public works director in late November after Lallier leaves, Coleman said. The city has enlisted Springsted Consulting to conduct a search for a new director, with plans to appoint Lallier's successor in February.
Lallier, who has been public works director since 2010, brought new parking meters downtown, helped implement the citywide biking plan and identified the city's arterial streets most in need of repair, the so-called "Terrible 20."
He began working for St. Paul in 1978 as a recreation leader and lifeguard for the parks department. In 1998 he became a parks operations manager, overseeing the budget.
"Rich has been an asset to St. Paul, from his first years as a seasonal worker to his work at public works director," Coleman said, in a prepared statement.
A 23-year-old Minneapolis man was allegedly scratched by a cougar Thursday at the Como Zoo in St. Paul after apparently climbing a guardrail outside an exhibit.
Zoo security personnel called police around 3:45 p.m. after seeing a man with headphones on the ground yelling at the cougars and pushing on the barrier outside the animals’ exhibit, said Matt Reinartz, Como Zoo spokesman.
The man was playing his music so loud that guards had to tap him on the shoulder, he said.
A visitor reported seeing the man standing up on the railing and reaching through the safety steel mesh barriers, Reinartz said. The zoo’s two cougars are protected by a guard rail 42 inches high and a 20-foot steel mesh on top, he said. There’s another fence of steel mesh that acts as a second barrier, he said.
“A person would have to go to great lengths to penetrate both barriers,” he said.
There are also at least 10 signs in the area warning visitors to stay back behind the guardrail, Reinartz said.
When questioned, the man denied climbing on the railing and reaching through the mesh barrier, Reinartz said. He claimed that he had scratched his hand exiting a bus. No zoo staffer saw the man climb the guardrail, Reinartz said.
The man was cited for disturbing zoo animals and released at the scene, according to a police report.
Built in 1928, the Highland Park water tower continues to provide water to the Highland Park neighborhood.