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#GorillaStory: Hanging Around with Moke (and Redd)

One thing is undeniable: our 17-week-old western lowland gorilla infant, Moke, takes every opportunity to explore his surroundings at the Great Ape House. Even when he was a newborn, he would pay close attention to his environment and his troop members’ activities. Now that he is able to walk and climb on his own, our primate keeper team has watched Moke embark on a new era of discovery!

This week, he decided to investigate a mesh overhang in one of the indoor enclosures. He seems to enjoy climbing up to this spot, grabbing on with both hands and letting his legs dangle beneath him. On one occasion, he was holding on with his left arm in front of his head, and his right hand behind. Mom Calaya was watching closely but did not assist. When he could not figure out how to get out of that position, he turned his head toward her and gave a slight whimper. Calaya extended her arms and ‘rescued’ him from his precarious predicament.

Moke’s teeth continue to grow in nicely; he has 10 full teeth, and number 11 is erupting. These new chompers mean that Moke can chew morsels of solid food and swallow them. He has not developed any favorite foods yet; rather, he goes for whatever food is within reach.

Calaya’s relationship with Mandara and Kibibi appears to be on the mend. She has allowed them to move in close proximity to Moke, which is a positive development for the entire troop. As Moke gains strength and independence, we hope these encounters will increase.

We hope you enjoyed last week’s “Who Knows This Nose” game; many of you guessed that Moke was second from the left—and you were right!

This week, my fun gorilla fact is that they enjoy taking naps during the day. One day, silverback Kojo settled down in the outdoor yard and yawned his way to a restful slumber. This series of photos captures his relaxing moments.

It is not unusual for Zoo visitors to see gorillas grab an armful of Timothy hay, move to a location and settle down. These “day nests” are perfect for naps. Night time nests are much more elaborate and often include fleece blankets, which we provide to them as enrichment. The Timothy hay used for bedding is a different substance from the hay they consume, which is alfalfa hay.

On the orangutan side of the Great Ape House, Bonnie and Redd’s wrestling matches have become quite a spectacle! At 154 pounds, Bonnie is a heavyweight compared to Redd’s slight 16.5-pound frame. When these two are together, the wrestling bouts are plentiful. Bonnie will playfully “bite” Redd and will hold onto him with a firm yet gentle grip. Redd will reciprocate with not only a bite, but one with a twist.

When Bonnie concludes that playtime is over, she will walk away. Redd, with arms held high, runs to her and slams into her back, forcing the bout into overtime! Bonnie happily indulges Redd until both combatants tire or are ready to eat.

I think both contestants give each other a good workout, and I would call it a draw!

Get the latest gorilla gossip at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo! Follow Moke’s development using the hashtag #GorillaStory. Planning a visit to the Zoo? Don’t miss the 11:30 a.m. gorilla keeper chat, which takes place daily. Check the board at the Great Ape House entrance for location details.