First 'critically endangered' Western Lowland gorilla born at Smithsonian's National Zoo in nine years

Staff at Smithsonian's National Zoo are celebrating the exciting arrival of a newborn Western Lowland gorilla.

Moke, meaning 'junior' or 'little one' in Lingala, is the first of the "critically endangered" species to be born at the Washington zoo for nine years.

He was born to first-time mother Calaya, 15, on April 15 and staff have closed the Great Ape House to allow them to bond in peace.

Calaya gave birth to Moke on April 15. Credit: Smithsonian’s National Zoo

He was born at 6.25pm with other primates looking on including his 26-year-old father Baraka.

"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.

Animal care staff have observed the infant gorilla has been clinging closely to his mother and animal care staff have been observing them

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.

Staff have observed the infant clinging closely to his mother. Credit: Smithsonian’s National Zoo

Native to Africa, Western Lowland gorillas live in the forests of Gabon, Central Africa Republic, Cameroon, Angola, Equatorial Guinea and Congo.

The species have become critically endangered due to disease and poaching.

In autumn last year, animal keepers confirmed that Calaya had successfully conceived using a human pregnancy test.

The team trained Calaya to participate voluntarily in ultrasounds and were able to monitor fetal growth throughout the pregnancy.

Updates on Calaya's progress has been shared on social media using the hashtag #GorillaStory.