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Smithsonian’s National Zoo welcomes newborn gorilla

WASHINGTON – A bouncing baby gorilla was born at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute on Sunday.

The Washington D.C. zoo says the newborn, named Moke, is the first male western lowland gorilla born at the facility in nine years. The little guy’s name means “junior” or “little one” in the Lingala language.

The zoo says Moke’s parents, mother Calaya and father Baraka, bred last summer following a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan (SSP).

Calaya has been seen nursing the infant, who has been clinging closely to his mother. Staff has closed the Great Ape House to allow Calaya to bond with and care for her baby without interference. Zookeepers are “cautiously optimistic that the newborn will thrive,” the zoo said.

“The birth of this western lowland gorilla is very special and significant, not only to our Zoo family but also to this critically endangered species as a whole,” said Meredith Bastian, curator of primates. “The primate team’s goal was to set Calaya up for success as best we could, given that she is a first-time mother. Doing so required great patience and dedication on the part of my team, and I am very proud of them and Calaya.”

The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the western lowland gorilla as critically endangered due to disease and poaching. Scientists estimate that in the past 20 to 25 years, the number of wild western lowland gorillas has decreased by 60 percent.