Como Zoo once again is breaking out the bananas, welcoming its third newborn great ape in three months.
The new addition to the zoo's growing family is Arlene, a 5-pound western lowland gorilla born on Feb. 22 to first-time mother Dara, age 11, in the day room at Como's Gorilla Forest exhibit.
To give Dara and Arlene enough time and privacy to bond properly, mother and baby won't make their public debut until later this month.
Como officials decided to wait a week before announcing the good news to make sure they were doing well, senior zookeeper Allison Jungheim said. So far, the baby looks healthy and is nursing regularly, she said.
"It's been kind of a baby boom for us," said Jungheim, referring to recent births of two zebras, a giraffe, an orangutan and another gorilla. "Seems like there was something in the water."
Zebras Melee and Ruckus were born in July and September, respectively. Skye the giraffe was born in late November, and Kemala the orangutan was born in early January.
The other gorilla, a male, was born in mid-November to 12-year-old Alice, becoming Como's first newborn gorilla in the 56 years that the zoo has housed the large primates. But he died a few days later, because of difficulty with feeding. About 4 in 10 gorillas in captivity die in the first several months.
Nothing different was done with Dara's maternal care, Jungheim said, but it was easier monitoring Dara than it was Alice. Dara was trained to help zookeepers check her health, such as using ultrasound to monitor her pregnancy.
Both newborn gorillas were fathered by Schroeder, a 29-year-old silverback who has been hovering protectively around Dara, Jungheim said.
Dara and Alice were among six gorillas moved to Como in 2013 to inhabit the new $11 million Gorilla Forest exhibit, the largest all-mesh gorilla enclosure in North America.
The gorillas, born in the United States, are descended from gorillas in tropical West Africa.
The latest baby gorilla was named for Arlene Scheunemann, a longtime docent who cared for more than 200 wild animals in her home before her death in 2013. At a time when Como lacked facilities to care for infant animals, Scheunemann fed newborn tigers, orangutans and gorillas, earning the title "Zoo Mom."
"I think Arlene Scheunemann would be smiling down on us," Jungheim said. "She was such a strong supporter of the zoo and gorillas."