A commotion occurred about noon yesterday at the Great Ape House at the National Zoo. A collective shriek arose. A stroller jam ensued. Cameras clicked and whirred. Mandara, one of the female gorillas, had just appeared, cradling the zoo's latest addition.
Mandara, 26, had given birth to an infant, sex and name undetermined, about 1:45 p.m. Saturday, without fanfare or any evident histrionics on the other side of a large plate glass window in full view of staff employees and a few lucky onlookers.
It was the first birth at the zoo this year and the first gorilla born there since 2001.
"Awwww," the small crowd murmured as Mandara and the baby settled onto a straw-cozy ledge for a feeding. Visitors could see only the baby's wizened head and a hand in the crook of its mother's arm.
Zoo officials said the birth is significant because the animals, western lowland gorillas, are listed as critically endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources Red List of Threatened Species.
The zoo's latest arrival came at an auspicious time: The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums has dubbed 2009 the "Year of the Gorilla" to spotlight the animals' struggle.
"This baby gorilla helps our zoo's mission of educating the public on the need for conservation," Moore said. "Having a little animal helps engage and inspire them."
Visitors can see the mother and baby, along with the other gorillas, in the Great Ape House between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. daily.