Zoo welcomes birth of baby gorilla

Gorilla Calaya cradles her newborn

A U.S. zoo has welcomed the birth of a male western lowland gorilla this week, a breed listed as critically endangered due to disease and poaching. Zookeepers asked Calaya to touch and kiss the plush baby, hold it gently and present her chest so it can nurse.

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. Because the team trained Calaya to participate voluntarily in ultrasounds, they have been able to monitor fetal growth and development throughout the pregnancy.

'The primate team's goal was to set Calaya up for success as best we could, given that she is a first-time mother.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature has listed them as critically endangered due to disease and poaching. Scientists estimate that in the past 20 to 25 years, the number of wild western lowland gorillas has decreased by 60 percent. The World Wildlife Foundation believes there are up to 100,000 individuals remaining.

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

Moke is the first baby gorilla born at the zoo in nine years. However, the zoo said that all signs so far point to a healthy mother-son relationship.

Calaya's maternal instinct was clear to see with her newborn Moke (Picture: Smithsonian)'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. The Great Ape House is closed to give Calaya quiet time to bond with her baby.

'I am excited to see how he will fit into the group dynamic.

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