Like an eight-months pregnant human, Kioja spends most of her time lying around uncomfortably these days. 

The 15-year-old gorilla, who lives at the Calgary Zoo, is expected to give birth any day now. 

But the struggle of delivery might be the easy part. Kioja, who was raised by keepers and has never been around a baby, might not know how to be a mother. 

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Kioja enjoys a snack at the Calgary Zoo. She's expecting a baby by early March. (CBC)

"She knows that there's changes to her body, we can see her reacting to that," said Malu Celli, a curator at the Calgary Zoo. 

"But we don't know when she delivers, and there's a little baby in her hands, if she will know what the right thing is. We hope so, we hope those instincts will kick in, but it's completely unknown at this point so we want to prepare."

Kioja is taking training sessions twice a day, practicing with a stuffed animal named Chucky. 

"We ask for different behaviours," Celli said. "Put it on your chest, turn it around, pick it up, put it in a certain position."

The issues Kioja could face range from not knowing how to properly carry a baby, to not giving a tiny gorilla the care and attention it needs. 

"She may be overwhelmed and not let the baby nurse, for example," Celli said. "So we're training her to present the baby to us so we can bottle feed it."

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Oh, hey! Kioja's up here now. She's been learning how to care for a baby since before she got pregnant. (CBC)

Gorillas, humans — we all need help

Kioja is rewarded with berries and other goodies when she does well. The training started before Kioja got pregnant, and Celli says she's getting good at it. 

"Humans need help too. Maybe you have friends, or maybe your parents are around. You read books and you prepare yourself that way because there's a lot of things you don't know," Celli said. 

"In the case of a gorilla, of course they have instincts, but she wasn't reared by her mom. She was partly hand-reared herself. She has never observed a baby being reared by another gorilla, so she didn't learn that way."

The last time a baby gorilla was born at the Calgary Zoo was in 2008, and she was partially raised by keepers because her mom didn't have strong mothering instincts. 

A growing family

As the mother, it's going to be Kioja's job to take care of the baby. But the father, Kakinga, is going to be around too. 

This isn't Kakinga's first rodeo. He has already fathered nine children. 

"For a silverback he's actually a very attentive dad. Very gentle with the kids," Celli said.

"He's very calm, and he's going to be key to make sure the troop stays calm and not stressed out while this all happens."

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Kakinga is an experienced father. He already has nine kids. (CBC)

Supportive role

Once the gorilla is born, staff at the zoo are going to keep a close eye on the relationship between mother and baby. 

"It's going to be about watching. It's going to be in a supportive role," said lead keeper Carrie Coleman.

"Kioja is a smart, lovely lady. She has very strong ties with all of the females, and Kakinga.

"She's going to be just fine with what she needs to do."

If Kioja isn't up to the task, keepers will help raise the young gorilla.