On Sunday night, the National Zoo welcomed their newest addition: Moke, a baby western lowland gorilla.

Moke, the baby western lowland gorilla, was born on April 15, at 6:25 p.m. at the National Zoo. His name means "junior" or "little one" in Lingala, a language spoken by residents of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo. His name certainly fits his small and adorable frame! Moke's mom, 15-year-old Calaya, was carefully trained by staff before the birth to help her adjust to motherhood. She watched other gorillas, looked at photos of mother gorillas, and was given a stuffed animal to care for. She was even trained to sit still during ultrasounds and urinate on cue to confirm her pregnancy. [caption id="attachment_8798" align="aligncenter" width="516"]baby western lowland gorilla Courtesy of the National Zoo[/caption] Calaya is already a great mother to her baby. She is nursing Moke and giving him plenty of love and cuddles. The National Zoo closed off the Great Ape House for the days after Moke's arrival, but animal lovers can watch a video of mom caring for her baby here. The National Zoo says they are "cautiously optimistic" that the baby gorilla will survive. Moke was conceived by two western lowland gorillas following a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Species Survival Plan. The western lowland gorilla is currently listed as critically endangered and their population has decreased by over 60 percent in the last 20 to 25 years. The species faces threats from poaching, disease, and habitat loss.
The National Zoo hopes the birth of Moke can help the imperiled species. “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, curator of primates. Moke is the first newborn baby western lowland gorilla at the National Zoo in nine years. [caption id="attachment_8799" align="aligncenter" width="503"]baby western lowland gorilla Courtesy of the National Zoo[/caption] After mom and son adjust to life in the Great Ape House, the exhibit will re-open for visitors to meet Moke! Thankfully for mom, the exhibit will have an area for the gorillas to move out of sight if they need some privacy. Visitors can talk with a great ape keeper to learn more about Moke and others at 11:30 a.m. daily. What do you think? Want to head over to visit Moke? Have a favorite animal to see at the zoo? Tell us in the comments below!

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