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Critically endangered western lowland gorilla born in Smithsonian zoo

17 April 2018

Calaya, now 15-years-old, is a western lowland gorilla residing at the Smithsonian's National Zoo.

"Calaya", one of the zoo's western lowland gorillas, gave birth to a baby boy at 6:25 p.m. Sunday.

Zoo staff are ecstatic at Calaya's success in carrying Moke, and say initial impressions are that he will thrive in his mother's care. His name is from the Lingala language and means "junior" or "little one".

"[It] is very special and significant, not only to our zoo family but also to this critically endangered species as a whole", the zoo's curator of primates, Meredith Bastian, said.

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'Doing so required great patience and dedication on the part of my team, and I am very proud of them and Calaya'.

The endangered lowland gorilla species lost about 60 percent of its population over the past two and a half decades for several reasons including poaching and disease. Zookeepers asked Calaya to touch and kiss the plush baby, hold it gently and present her chest so it can nurse. Throughout her pregnancy, which lasted roughly nine months, Calaya received ultrasounds, hormone testing, and learned how to prepare her breasts for lactation.

The Smithsonian's five-gorilla troop is now made up of Moke, Calaya, 26-year-old father Baraka, another adult female called Mandara and a sub-adult female called Kibibi.

The footage shows Calaya cradling her newborn shortly after giving birth - while also cleaning placenta from his head - in what appears to be a number of lovable kisses.

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Just like human moms going to maternity class, the Zoo helped Calaya learn the skills she would need to be a good mom.

Animal keeper Melba Brown said zoo officials are certain Calaya will be an excellent caregiver to her new son.

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

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Critically endangered western lowland gorilla born in Smithsonian zoo