Smithsonian National Zoo celebrates birth of baby critically endangered gorilla

Gorilla mom

Smithsonian Zoo

First-time mother Calaya gave birth to her son, Moke - pronounced mo-KEY - a western lowland gorilla, on Sunday at the Smithsonian National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute in Washington, D.C. The little guy's name means "junior" or "little one" in the Lingala language.

According to the zoo's website, the parents-15-year-old mother Calaya and 26-year-old father Baraka-bred in summer 2017 following a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Plan (SSP).

Calaya became an online star after the zoo announced she was pregnant with the hashtag #GorillaStory, which will continue to be used to update followers on Moke's progress.

'The primate team's goal was to set Calaya up for success as best we could, given that she is a first-time mother. 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.

Calaya came to the National Zoo from Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle (where she was born), as part of a breeding program in 2015.

The extremely caring mother is seen in video footage holding onto her baby while keeping a locked gaze on him. Two male silverback brothers also live at the zoo. Experts say the population decreased by 60 percent in the past 20 to 25 years.

Native to Central African Republic, Cameroon, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Republic of the Congo, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the lowland gorilla species adds one more to its dwindling number, and hopefully through conservation and other efforts, these creatures will thrive in the coming decades.

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