Critically endangered western lowland gorilla born at National Zoo

WASHINGTON — For the first time in five years, the National Zoo welcomed its first western lowland gorilla, officials said.

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The baby primate was born early Saturday between midnight and 6:15 a.m. EDT, Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute wrote in a news release.

The western lowland gorilla is a critically endangered species. The baby, who is yet to be named, was born to 20-year-old Calaya, according to the news release. The father is Baraka, a 31-year-old gorilla. It is the second child for both parents, according to USA Today.

Because the baby is bonding with Calaya, zoo officials said it may take some time for staff members to determine the sex of the gorilla, the newspaper reported.

The Great Ape House reopened Tuesday, allowing zoo visitors to see the new addition, WJLA-TV reported.

“I think it’s precious,” one visitor, who did not provide their name, told the television station. “The zoo is so lucky to have this new baby and were privileged to be able to see it.”

Gorillas live in groups, called troops, the zoo said in its news release. The troops typically contain a silverback male, one or more blackback males, several adult females and their infant and juvenile offspring. The National Zoo’s troop is composed of Calaya, Baraka, Moke and the new infant. The troop also has Mandara, a 41-year-old female, and her 14-year-old daughter, Kibibi. Moke was the last gorilla born in the zoo, as he was born to Calaya in 2018.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists the western lowland gorilla as critically endangered due to habitat loss, disease and poaching, zoo officials said.

“We are overjoyed to welcome a new infant to our western lowland gorilla troop,” Becky Malinsky, the zoo’s curator of primates, said in a statement. “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.”

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