Gorilla mom gives sweet kisses to newborn at Smithsonian Zoo

- Staff at Smithsonian’s National Zoo are celebrating the birth of a male western lowland gorilla, which is the first in nine years for the zoo.

The zoo announced on its Facebook page that staff members captured the birth on camera. The male infant was named Moke, which means “junior” or “little one” in the Lingala language.  He was born to 15-year-old Calaya on Sunday before 6:30 p.m. 

The primate keepers at Smithsonian’s National Zoo say they are optimistic Moke will survive through Calaya’s care. The zoo also shared video showing Calaya carefully holding Moke in her arms, while giving him tender kisses on his face. The infant was clinging closely to his mother. 

In fall 2017, keepers confirmed Calaya successfully conceived by using a common human pregnancy test, and trained her to participate in ultrasounds to monitor her baby’s growth. 

“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.”

Western lowland gorillas are native to Africa and the International Union for Conservation of Nature listed the species as critically endangered due to disease and poaching, according to the zoo. Experts say the population decreased by 60 percent in the past 20 to 25 years. 

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