The National Zoo is welcoming its first male baby gorilla in nine years. Baby, Moke [Mo-KEY] (meaning ‘junior’ or ‘little one’), a male western lowland gorilla, was born to mother, Calaya, Sunday, April 15 at 6:25 p.m. The mother has been observed nursing the infant, and the Zoo’s staff is optimistic that the baby gorilla will thrive.
“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,” according to 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.”
The 15-year-old Calaya and the 26-year-old father, Baraka, bred in August of last year. Zoo staff confirmed the pregnancy using a human pregnancy test and monitored the progression of the pregnancy via ultrasound. The mother had been trained to participate voluntarily.
Zoo staff has been preparing Calaya for motherhood in hopes that she will care for her infant. She responded best by repeating the actions of other gorillas. Maternal behavior was reinforced through pictures of other mother gorillas and interacting wiht a plush gorilla toy. According to 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.”