Drop Everything And Check Out This Adorable Baby Gorilla


Calaya and Moke. The Smithsonian Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute

A western lowland gorilla at the Smithsonian Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute in Washington, DC, has given birth to her first baby – a male named Moke.

Born on the evening of April 15, the infant’s name means "little one" in the Lingala language, a Bantu dialect spoken in the primate species’ native Congo Basin region.


Moke’s arrival marks the first gorilla born at the Smithsonian in nine years. A camera set up in Calaya's enclosure captured the birthing process and the first few moments of the mother holding her baby, which is pretty incredible to witness.

“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 primates curator Meredith Bastian in the zoo's announcement.

“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.”

Efforts to breed Calaya, 15, with a 26-year-old male named Baraka, began in 2017, under the guidance of the Association of Zoos and Aquarium’s Species Survival Plan – an initiative to maintain genetic diversity of captive endangered animals.


As of now, Moke and Calaya appear healthy, and the troop’s enclosure has been reopened to the public, though the zoo notes that all gorillas always have the choice to stay in parts of their habitat not visible to visitors.

Reaching upright heights of 1.2 to 1.7 meters (4 to 5.5 feet), western lowland gorillas are the smallest of the four gorilla subspecies, and also the most widespread, according to the World Wildlife Fund. Populations are found in forested areas of Gabon, the Republic of Congo Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Equatorial Guinea.

Though the species is not as close to the brink of extinction as the mountain gorilla, a subspecies of the eastern gorilla that lives in the Virunga volcano mountain range and the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, western lowland gorillas still face the same daunting threats.

Habitat loss from deforestation, disease, and poaching for bushmeat and the illegal pet trade are continually driving down the numbers of remaining gorillas. The current total population of wild western lowland gorillas has declined by more than 60 percent over the past 20 to 25 years.


If Moke thrives in his new home, we can expect him to transition from a young "black back" male to a fully matured silverback around age 13. If he were in the wild, Moke would leave his mother's family troop – composed of one dominant silverback gorilla, several females, and their young offspring – after reaching sexual maturity at about 8 years old to living independently or with other 'bachelor' males. 


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