That said, with the Zoo being closed to visitors, there have been no overt changes in the gorillas’ behavior to suggest they are being significantly affected by the lack of visitors inside of the Great Ape House. However, I suspect they might be more aware of the lack of visitors from their outdoor yards, since this time of year they would likely hear the chit-chat and footsteps of large crowds. I am noticing that it is easier to hear the sounds of frogs and birds. Chances are Moke is noticing these, too.
Moke seems to enjoy exploring the world with all of his senses. When presented with a new enrichment item, he will undoubtedly smell, taste, observe and shake it. He appreciates things that make noise, have a unique texture or are just novel to him.
Keepers gave Moke a basket for Valentine's Day. He turned it into a drum!
Moke is often exploring items through his mouth. We provide durable chew toys for the gorillas to interact with, and Moke tends to gravitate towards these, perhaps more than the other gorillas. Items such as kongs or nylabones can be filled or coated with a special treat, such as applesauce or pumpkin, and sometimes we will freeze these as well. As one might imagine, our gorillas can be tough on their toys and some well-loved items can get a bit run-down over time. If you would like to give Moke a gift for his birthday, you can do so by donating to our Enrichment Trunk. On behalf of our animals, we thank you for your generosity!
While the gorillas receive treats throughout the day as part of their enrichment, we also provide them with browse, or fresh tree trimmings, to eat. Their natural diet would include wild celery, stems, bamboo shoots, fruits and tree pulp. Our gorillas have plenty of opportunity to enjoy a nice variety of healthy produce and leafy material, too. The leafy stalks of bamboo we give them are often quite large, and it always brings a smile to my face to see Moke running around with a massive piece that can sometimes be two-to-three times his size! He seems to enjoy displaying with these items, as I suspect he might think they make him look quite “tough” and larger than he actually is.
Moke learns how to strip leaves off a willow branch by watching his dad, Baraka.
Like any youngster, Moke often gets tired and takes an occasional nap—particularly after a big meal. Since gorillas are herbivores and need to break down the large amounts of cellulose in the food they eat, sleep is an essential part of their day.
Because Moke is still fairly young, he has long been allowed to “get away” with being naughty, or overly inquisitive in what each troop member is doing. As keepers, we have to regularly monitor his play, as sometimes he may get carried away and nearly get himself into trouble. For example, he might attempt to fit in spaces where he doesn’t fit, or try to steal enrichment from an individual who might not be quite ready to give it up. As he gets older, though, we more often see troop members become slightly less tolerant of his antics.
It may not seem apparent, but sometimes the best form of enrichment for an animal can be social interaction. Perhaps nowadays—in this age of “social distancing”—we really can appreciate how true this is. He has a unique relationship with each individual in his troop.