National Zoo celebrating birth of baby boy gorilla

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For the first time in nine years, Smithsonian’s National Zoo celebrated the birth of a baby boy gorilla over the weekend.

According to the zoo, “Moke,” which means “junior” or “little one,” was born at 6:25 p.m. on Sunday. Since then, he and his mother Calaya have become an internet sensation.

Videos of the mother and baby went viral on Facebook, with more than 2.8 million views in just one day.

The zoo says staff is leaving Calaya to bond with and care for Moke without interference. She was prepared for motherhood for months prior to giving birth.

“[Animal Keeper Melba]Brown helped to reinforce Calaya’s maternal behaviors by presenting her with photos of mother gorillas and giving her a plush gorilla toy to gently touch and kiss,” the zoo reports in a news release. “Brown also trained Calaya to present her chest so keepers could place the plush gorilla up to her breast to “nurse.”

The zoo said they prepared another female gorilla at the zoo to act as Moke’s foster mother in the event Calaya was unable or unwillng to care for her baby. 

Calaya and Moke are Western Iowland Gorillas, which are native to Africa. The subspecies is critically endangered according to The International Union for Conservation of Nature.

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