Como Zoo's Gorilla Forest opens Thursday

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A new and improved home for seven gorillas at the Como Zoo opens to the public Thursday.

MPR reports the $11 million expansion is a giant step up from a the old pit-like exhibit that a pair of gorillas once occupied.

The new primate yard is three times larger than the previous space, has real trees and grass and puts the animals on higher ground than the visitors.

The 13,000-square-foot habitat makes up the largest all-mesh gorilla enclosure in North America, according to the Star Tribune, and is designed to give visitors an up-close view of zoo's expanded collection of gorillas, the Pioneer Press reports.

In recent years, the zoo had two male gorillas, Schroeder and Togo. Togo was moved to Oklahoma City and six other gorillas, three male and three female, were brought in from zoos all over the country.

The Star Tribune says the gorillas have been split into two groups. Schroeder, 27, has been placed with the three females, 9-year-old Alice, 8-year-old Dara and 25-year-old Nne, in hopes that they will eventually mate.

On the other side, are the three 14-year-old "bachelors," Jabir, Virgil and Samson.

The zoo says other monkey species may join the gorillas in the future.

MPR has photos.

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