Zoo welcomes birth of baby gorilla

Primate staff at the Smithsonian National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute are celebrating the firs birth of a male western lowland gorilla in nine years

Footage and photos of Calaya the gorilla have been shared after she gave birth to her son Moke (pronounced "Mo-key", which is conveniently similar to "monkey", although as any Terry Pratchett fan will tell you, apes =/= monkeys) at the Smithsonian National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute in Washington DC.

Moke, which means "junior" or "little one" in the Lingala language, was born at 6.25pm.

It was the first time in nine years a gorilla has given birth at the zoo with officials capturing the moment on film and sharing it on social media and their website.

The adorable baby gorilla was bred last summer by 15-year-old mom Calaya and 26-year-old father Baraka.

Moke is listed as critically endangered due to disease and poaching. Zoo staff members say he's bonding with his mother, Calaya, and video shows her cleaning him after he was born. They are cautiously optimistic that the newborn will thrive.

The Great Ape House was closed on Monday to accommodate the new mama and her baby.

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Since Calaya's pregnancy was confirmed using a standard human pregnancy test in fall 2017, staff have been getting ready for Moke's arrival.

Calaya is a first time mom, and caretakers said she is doing an awesome job, cradling the baby and even breastfeeding. I am excited to see how he will fit into the group dynamic.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature says that the species is critically endangered; the most severe classification before extinction.

Native to Africa, western lowland gorillas live in the forests of Gabon, Central Africa Republic, Cameroon, Angola, Equatorial Guinea and Congo.

Scientists estimate the number of wild western lowland gorillas has decreased by 60 per cent in the past 25 years.

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