The National Zoo on Sunday welcomed a baby Western lowland gorilla, the zoo announced Monday. The gorilla birth is the first at the zoo in nine years.
The male gorilla, named Moke (mo-kee), is the first infant for 15-year-old mom Calaya and dad Baraka. Zookeepers have observed Calaya nursing the infant are “cautiously optimistic” that Moke will do well in her care. They had given Calaya motherhood lessons, including practicing with a stuffed gorilla toy.
“We will provide support to her if need be, but I have every confidence that Calaya will be a great mom to Moke,” animal keeper Melba Brown said.
Moke will join the zoo’s gorilla troop, which in addition to his parents, includes a young female and an adult female. Two male silverback brothers also live at the zoo. The Great Ape House was closed Monday to allow mom and infant to bond.
Western lowland gorillas are considered critically endangered, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. Their numbers have dropped dramatically in the past 25 years because of poaching and disease in their native Africa.