National Zoo Welcomes Birth of Critically Endangered Baby Gorilla - NBC10 Boston

National Zoo Welcomes Birth of Critically Endangered Baby Gorilla

Moke is the first gorilla born at the zoo in nine years.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    National Zoo Welcomes Baby Gorilla

    D.C. has a tiny new arrival! A newborn gorilla made his arrival Sunday. News4's Aimee Cho reports. (Published Monday, April 16, 2018)

    D.C. has a tiny new arrival! A newborn gorilla made his arrival Sunday, the Smithsonian's National Zoo announced.

    Calaya, one of the zoo's western lowland gorillas, gave birth to a boy at 6:25 p.m. Sunday, zoo officials announced on Facebook and Twitter on Monday morning.

    She has been taking care of her newborn, and keepers said they're optimistic he will thrive. 

    The baby's name, Moke, means "junior" or "little one" in Lingala, the zoo said. His name is pronounced mo-KEY.

    Meredith Bastian, curator of primates at the zoo's Conservation Biology Institute called the gorilla's birth -- the first in nine years -- "very special and significant, not only to our zoo family but also to this critically endangered species as a whole." The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the western lowland gorilla as critically endangered. 


    Calaya, a first-time mom, was expected to give birth any time from early April to early May, the zoo previously said. She had been resting more during the day, and keepers had given her with extra fleece blankets. 

    Keeper Melba Brown helped acclimate Calaya to motherhood by showing her photos of mother gorillas and giving her a plush gorilla toy to touch and kiss. Brown also trained her to present her chest so keepers could place the toy gorilla to her breast to "nurse," the zoo said.

    As they awaited the birth, keepers maintained the zoo's six gorillas' normal routines as much as they could.

    Still, the pregnancy shifted their behaviors and dynamics, they said. Calaya was more relaxed and passive despite usually being the dominant female in the group, keepers said. The baby's father, Baraka, an older 400-pound gorilla, became more gentle toward Calaya during disputes between the female gorillas.

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    "This infant's arrival triggers many emotions -- joy, excitement, relief -- and pride that all of our perseverance in preparing Calaya for motherhood has paid off," said Brown in a release from the zoo Monday.

    "We will provide support to her if need be, but I have every confidence that Calaya will be a great mom to Moke. I am excited to see how he will fit into the group dynamic," Brown said. "There are a lot of different personalities in this family troop, but they all work well together."