Baby gorilla, Moke, bonds with mom Calaya on Monday, April 16, 2018, at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. Moke was born Sunday, April 15, 2018.
Smithsonian's National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute

WASHINGTON — The National Zoo here is touting the arrival of Moke, a new baby gorilla, which was born Sunday.

Calaya, 15, gave birth to Moke (pronounced Mo-KEY) in front of staff at the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute at 6:25 p.m. Sunday. A birth, that staff said literally brought them to tears.

"I teared up a bit, it was breathtaking," said Becky Malinski, assistant curator of primates at the zoo.

Moke, which means junior or little one in the Lingala language, is only eating milk from his mom at this point. In general, gorilla babies weigh about 4 pounds when they are born. Lingala is spoken in parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo and in the Republic of Congo.

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Moke's mom, Calaya, is a western lowland gorilla who came to the National Zoo about four years ago just to breed. The father is Baraka, 26.

Zoo curators say these gorillas are critically endangered. They say there are less than 200,000 left in the wild.

"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, in a statement on the zoo's website.

According to the National Zoo, the "International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the western lowland gorilla as critically endangered due to disease and poaching."

Calaya is a first time mom, and caretakers said she is doing an awesome job, cradling the baby and even breastfeeding.

The Great Ape House at the zoo was closed Monday to accommodate the newborn. It will reopen as soon as Tuesday so the public can get a first in-person look at Moke.

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