Natural instinct and a mother’s love: Western lowland gorilla showers smooches on newborn at Smithsonian’s National Zoo

A Western lowland gorilla gave birth to a male at 6:25 p.m. Sunday at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute.

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

According to the zoo’s website, the parents—15-year-old mother Calaya and 26-year-old father Baraka—bred in summer 2017 following a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan (SSP). Animal care staff have observed Calaya nursing the infant who has been clinging closely to his mother, and they are cautiously optimistic that the newborn will thrive. Animal care staff are leaving Calaya to bond with and care for her baby without interference. The Great Ape House is closed to provide Calaya a quiet space to bond with her infant.

[Disclaimer: Contains footage of ACTUAL LIVE BIRTH]

In fall 2017, animal keepers confirmed that Calaya had successfully conceived using a common human pregnancy test. Because the team trained Calaya to participate voluntarily in ultrasounds, they have been able to monitor fetal growth and development throughout the pregnancy. The Zoo announced her pregnancy Nov. 3 and since has provided updates on Calaya via FacebookTwitter and Instagram using the hashtag #GorillaStory. It will continue to share updates, photos and videos of the infant as news breaks.

[More bonding time between mommy and newborn]

“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. “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.”

[See Cuteness and Smooches!]