This was years in the making: An adorable, critically endangered male lowland gorilla has been born at Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute. Zoo staff have named him Moke [Mo-KEY], a name that means "little one."
He's the first one to be born at the National Zoo in nine years, perfect and wrinkly and clinging to his mom, 15-year-old Calaya. She came to the zoo in February 2015 after scientists recommended that she might be a good candidate to breed there. Moke's father is a 26-year-old named 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," Meredith Bastian, curator of primates, said in a statement.
Zoo staff say they are "cautiously optimistic that the newborn will thrive," particularly because Calaya is nursing and cradling baby Moke. (The name is taken from the Lingala language, which is spoken in several central African countries.)
There was always a possibility that Calaya would not care for her infant — and that's why the team worked intensively with her to maximize the chances that she would.