First Gorilla Born At National Zoo In 9 Years

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Last night, Washington, D.C. excitedly welcomed a new baby gorilla to the Smithsonian National Zoo amidst a heavy rainstorm.

Moke, which means “little one” in the Lingala language, is the first male western lowland gorilla born at that zoo in nearly a decade, according to a Smithsonian Magazine report.

The endangered lowland gorilla species lost about 60 percent of its population over the past two and a half decades for several reasons including poaching and disease. Because of the gorilla’s endangered status, Moke makes an incredibly exciting and valuable addition. His mother, a 15-year-old named Calaya, began caring for him shortly after his birth, which is an excellent sign for the first time mother because sometimes, new gorilla mothers are either unable or unwilling to care for their newborns.

Last summer, after a standard human pregnancy test confirmed Calaya’s pregnancy, the primate team at the zoo worked diligently to prepare her as well as the zoo for the infant’s birth. Throughout her pregnancy, which lasted roughly nine months, Calaya received ultrasounds, hormone testing, and learned how to prepare her breasts for lactation.

According to primate curator Meredith Bastian, everything went well with the birth and care immediately after the birth. Moke’s new family consists of both his mother and father, Baraka. An adult female named Mandara and a sub-adult female named Kibibi round out the family. Mandara successfully fostered six infants, and she was ready to step in if Calaya had difficulty with her son, but it looks like Calaya and Moke will get along just fine as mother and son.


Visitors may be sad to hear that the Great Ape House remains closed indefinitely to allow Calaya to nurse her infant. However, visitors can see other gorillas at the zoo each day, and at 11:30 a.m. daily, A great ape keeper arrives to answer questions about the newborn as well as the other gorillas at the zoo while showing off Moke’s family unit along with silverback brothers Kwame and Kojo.

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.