This update was written by primate keeper Melba Brown.
At 5 weeks old, our western lowland gorilla infant Moke continues to thrive, and we are beginning to see how his personality is developing. He is very curious and wiggly! When Moke wakes up from his nap and his belly is full, he is a ball of energy. He will wave his arms, stretch and look around the exhibit like he is ready to explore.
Although Moke is becoming more alert, his mom, Calaya, continues to hold him close and is not comfortable letting him explore on his own just yet. Occasionally, she will place him on the ground and rest him against her leg. He is able to sit up on his own, so it won’t be too much longer until he’s on the move. For the moment, he continues to take in everything Calaya does and seems especially focused whenever she has food or an enrichment item in her hands. The other day, he picked up a handful of hay, and she promptly removed it from his grasp.
Calaya has a very assertive personality, and ever since Moke was born, her status in the troop has been elevated. While Mandara and Kibibi can approach and even, at times, touch Moke, Calaya is not as tolerant when it comes to Baraka and tends to err on the side of being protective. One morning, Baraka became a bit annoyed with some maintenance work being done on the roof of the Great Ape House. He moved toward Calaya in an alert state. She barked at him, ran towards him and smacked him. He did not have any response to her behavior, which is rather surprising. Before Moke was born, he would discipline her whenever a scuffle occurred. It is quite interesting to see how the dynamic between them has changed since Moke’s arrival.
In the coming months, I am looking forward to Calaya allowing Moke to explore the habitat on his own. I will be curious to see how protective she is when he begins crawling away from her. He is already so lively; I am especially excited to see Kibibi have an opportunity to play with him one on one.
As primate keepers Alex Reddy and Matt Spence mentioned in last week’s #GorillaStory update, Moke is now strong enough to hold onto Calaya’s chest or abdomen as she walks. This can make spotting him a bit tricky. When planning a visit to see the gorillas, look for Calaya first; she has a prominent crest and reddish hair atop her head. If she is walking, Moke may be clinging underneath her!Follow the Zoo’s updates on Moke and the western lowland gorilla troop on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #GorillaStory. Stop by the Great Ape House at 11:30 a.m. daily to catch our keeper talk and get the latest updates on Moke and the troop.