National Zoo welcomes baby gorilla

The Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington is welcoming its newest member — a baby Lowland gorilla.

On Sunday, 15-year-old Calaya gave birth to a son, Moke — "junior" or "little one" in Lingala, a language spoken in Central Africa.

“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, the National Zoo's curator of primates, according to the Smithsonian. “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.”

According to the zoo, Cayala has been adjusting well to motherhood and has learned how to care for Moke by watching other gorillas and through the help of staff. Zookeepers helped trained Cayala, in part, by showing her pictures of mother gorillas and presenting her with toys to cuddle and kiss.

“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 animal keeper Melba 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.”

Alex Hider is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @alexhider.

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