The National Zoo in Washington DC Welcomes A Newborn Baby Gorilla

Gorilla Calaya cradles her newborn

The National Zoo in Washington DC Welcomes A Newborn Baby Gorilla

A Western lowland gorilla gave birth to a male at 6:25 p.m. Sunday at the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute.

A U.S. zoo has welcomed the birth of a male western lowland gorilla this week, a breed listed as critically endangered due to disease and poaching.

Keepers trained Calaya to take voluntary ultrasound so they could monitor Moke's fetal growth.

The baby's name, Moke, means "junior" or "little one" in Lingala, the zoo said.

Meredith Bastian, curator of primates at the zoo, said the birth holds special significance to both their zoo family and to the critically endangered species as a whole.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists it as critically endangered due to disease and poaching.

They also prepared Calaya for motherhood by showing her photos of mother gorillas and giving her a plush gorilla toy to touch, kiss and practice nursing.

Staff taught Calaya breastfeeding techniques while she was pregnant.

The Washington, D.C. zoo released a video of the birth, in which Calaya can be seen delivering her own baby and holding Moke close, cleaning his head and face with tender kisses.

Because they live deep in remote and heavily forested areas, it is hard to estimate the total numbers of gorillas in the wild.

Staff are leaving Calaya to bond with and care for Moke without interference. If the infant is healthy and thrives, Calaya and her infant will be on exhibit when the Great Ape House reopens but Calaya will have a choice of rooms, some of which are out of public view.

Calaya is a 15-year-old gorilla while Moke's father is a 26-year-old called Baraka.

Animal keeper Melba Brown said zoo officials are certain Calaya will be an excellent caregiver to her new son. There are a lot of different personalities in this family troop, but they all work well together'.

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