Zoo welcomes birth of baby gorilla

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Over the weekend, a male western lowland gorilla was born at the zoo's Conservation Biology Institute - the first such birth at the zoo in nearly a decade.

The newborn's name, Moke [pronounced mo-KEY], means "junior" or "little one" in the Lingala language.

Visitors may be sad to hear that the Great Ape House remains closed indefinitely to allow Calaya to nurse her infant. The Zoo announced her pregnancy November 3 and since has provided updates on Calaya via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #GorillaStory.

'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, ' Meredith Bastian, curator of primates, said in a statement to the National Zoo's website.

Last summer, after a standard human pregnancy test confirmed Calaya's pregnancy, the primate team at the zoo worked diligently to prepare her as well as the zoo for the infant's birth. They showed her photos of other gorillas and their babies and even introduced her to a stuffed gorilla baby for practice.

Mum Calaya welcomes Moke into the worldSmithsonian's National ZooCalaya initially cradles her new-born sonSmithsonian's National ZooJust one kiss isn't enough for adoring mum CalayaSmithsonian's National ZooAnd another...

Calaya has been seen nursing the infant, who has been clinging closely to his mother. There are a lot of different personalities in this family troop, but they all work well together'. The International Union for Conservation of Nature says that the species is critically endangered; the most severe classification before extinction.

Moke is the first baby gorilla born at the zoo in nine years.

Westen lowland gorillas are native to Africa and live in the forests of Gabon, Central Africa Republic, Cameroon, Angola, Equatorial Guinea and Congo.

The zoo tweeted: 'We're thrilled to share western lowland gorilla Calaya gave birth to a male at 6:25 p.m.