The Animal Facts Editorial Team
May 30, 2023 6:42 pm
Smithsonian’s National Zoo, Washington DC, The United States
For the first time in five years guests visiting the Smithsonian’s National Zoo will be able to meet an infant western lowland gorilla. 20-year-old mother Calaya and 31-year-old father Baraka welcomed the latest addition to their family between midnight and 6:15am on May 27th 2023. The pair were placed together in September 2022 and keepers have been eagerly awaiting the birth of the infant since the pregnancy was confirmed using a household pregnancy test in October 2022.
Animal care staff have been pleased to see good mothering skills exhibited by Calaya since the birth including nursing and holding the baby close to her. At present they are keeping their distance while mother and child bond meaning they are yet to determine the gender of the new arrival. The Ape House at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo will remain closed till May 30 to give the pair a quiet space to develop a bond.
When the Ape House reopens Calaya will be give the opportunity to access an off-exhibit quiet area and as a result the infant may not be available for viewing at all times.
“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.”
Calaya and Baraka were brought together through a recommendation of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ Species Survival Plan (SSP). SSP scientists considered their genetic makeup, health and temperament, among other factors to ensure they were a perfect match.
Keepers describe Calaya as a cautious gorilla while Baraka is described as relaxed and tolerant of his 5 year old son Moke’s antics. Keepers are excited to see if a bond will develop between Moke and the latest addition to the troop.
Gorillas live in groups known as a troop. The Smithsonian’s National Zoo troop is made up of Calaya, Baraka, Moke and the new infant, as well as a 41-year-old female named Mandara and her 14-year-old daughter, Kibibi.
In their native Africa the western lowland gorilla is found in rainforests at the centre of the continent. Unfortunately they are now considered critically endangered due to habitat loss, disease and poaching. Numbers have decreased by 60% over the past 25 years.
Image: © Becky Malinsky, Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute
Image: © Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute
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