Staff at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C. are rejoicing over the birth of an endangered Western lowland gorilla this week.
Image Credit: Smithsonian's National Zoo
Citing one of the zoo’s official statements on the matter, it’s the first time in nine years that a Western lowland gorilla has been born at the park. The mother, a 15-year-old female named Calaya, is said to have delivered the infant male at 6:25 P.M. Eastern time on Sunday, April 15th.
Zoo staff didn’t waste much time deciding on a name for the little bugger. They’ve agreed to call the newborn “Moke,” pronounced ‘moh-key,’ which encompasses a hidden meaning. It purportedly translates to “junior” or “little one” in the Lingala language.
“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, the curator of primates at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo.
“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.”
As many would come to expect, Moke isn’t on display to the public just yet. Instead, he’s spending time behind closed doors with his mother to encourage bonding, and Calaya appears to be doing a stellar job in nursing her baby.
Staff at the zoo expect that Moke will grow up to become a healthy adult gorilla, but they’re standing by with veterinarians just in case of any unexpected complications.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature lists the Western lowland gorilla as an endangered species. Threatened by illegal poaching and other concerns, the species’ numbers have been driven dangerously low, and so the species desperately needs every boost it can get. That said, Moke’s birth sounds like music to the ears of hardcore animal conservationists.