The Smithsonian National Zoo has welcomed a baby western lowland gorilla for the first time in nine years.
Fifteen-year-old Calaya gave birth on Sunday at 6.25pm and has been observed nursing and caring for him, sparking cautious hopes he will thrive.
The baby male gorilla has been named Moke, meaning “junior” or “little one” in the Lingala language.
The zoo has released a video showing the birth as well as Calaya and Moke bonding afterwards.
To prepare Calaya for motherhood and ensure she would care for her impeding arrival properly, one of her keepers, Melba Brown, showed her pictures of mother gorillas and gave her a toy baby gorilla. She also observed other mothers in her troop.
“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.
“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. There are a lot of different personalities in this family troop, but they all work well together.”
Over time, Moke will be introduced into the Smithsonian National Zoo’s main gorilla troop. This contains Calaya, Moke’s father Baraka, an adult female named Mandara and a sub-adult female named Kibibi.
In case Calaya had been unwilling or unable to care for her baby, keepers prepared Mandara, an experienced mother of six, to act as a foster mother as a precaution.