WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — Staff members at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute (NZCBI) celebrated a special arrival on Saturday. For the first time in five years, they welcomed a baby western lowland gorilla, a critically endangered species.
The baby was born to its 20-year-old mother, Calaya, and its 31-year-old father, Baraka. It was the second birth for the pair.
Staff members said they have seen Calaya nursing the baby. Early indications are that the newborn will thrive. Because they’re giving Calaya plenty of space to bond with and care for her baby, staff members said it may be a little while before they can confirm the sex of the newborn.
NZCBI said it would provide updates on its gorilla troop on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using #GorillaStory, including photos and videos of the baby. The zoo’s troop is composed of Calaya, Baraka, Moke and the newborn, as well as a 41-year-old female named Mandara and her 14-year-old daughter, Kibibi.
“We are overjoyed to welcome a new infant to our western lowland gorilla troop,” said Becky Malinsky, curator of primates. “Calaya is an experienced mother, and I have every confidence she will take excellent care of this baby, as she did with her first offspring, Moke. Since his birth in 2018, it’s been wonderful seeing her nurturing and playful side come out. I encourage people to visit our gorilla family and be inspired to help save this critically endangered species in the wild.”
Western lowland gorillas are native to Africa and live in the forests of Gabon, Central Africa Republic, Cameroon, Angola, Equatorial Guinea and Congo. The International Union for Conservation of Nature considers the western lowland gorilla critically endangered because of habitat loss, disease and poaching. Scientists estimate that in the past 20 to 25 years, the number of wild western lowland gorillas has decreased by 60%.