DC zoo to welcome 1st baby gorilla in 9 years

The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is preparing for the birth of its first baby gorilla in nine years, WJLA reported.

Melba Brown is watching for signs of labor, WJLA reported. The zookeeper has been preparing the mom-to-be, Calaya, with “maternal training” — which includes showing her pictures of gorillas taking care of their babies.

Because it’s the gorilla’s first pregnancy, Brown has been using a stuffed gorilla to teach Calaya how to touch, kiss and nurse her infant, WJLA reported.

Gorillas are a critically endangered species.

Brown told WJLA that maintaining the captive population is important for conservation and research. Only about 350 are living in zoos in North America

Calaya was brought to D.C. from the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle in 2015, WJLA reported. Soon after, she became acquainted with the National Zoo’s silverback male, Baraka.

“And then nature took place,” Brown told WJLA. “So here we are about eight months later.”

Brown said the baby will live in the exhibit with Baraka and the other gorillas, WJLA reported. Zookeepers won’t intervene with the birth unless there is an urgent issue.