For the past two years, the primate team has had the privilege of sharing the story of our western lowland gorilla infant, Moke, with Smithsonian’s National Zoo fans all over the world. With Mother’s Day coming up May 10, we thought we would highlight Moke’s very first friend—his mom, Calaya!
Calaya gave birth to Moke at 6:25 p.m. April 15, 2018. His name means “junior” or “little one” in the Lingala language
Calaya can be a tough nut to crack. As the dominant female of the troop, she helps keep everyone together. She is selective and nervous around new people, but I have enjoyed watching her come out of her shell and flourish into the beautiful animal I know her to be today. Our team affectionately refers to her as a “gorilla’s gorilla,” which means she is much more at ease around her troop than she is with our animal care team. This trait makes any moments when she reciprocates positive attention toward us all the more special.
Every day that I work with Calaya, I learn something new about her personality. She is not shy about showing off and enjoys being encouraged whenever she is in a playful mood. She will spin, roll around on the ground, clap and put enrichment toys on her head. Calaya is truly entertaining to watch!
One common gesture that is unmistakable in gorillas is a “clap.” This action is frequently employed by Calaya, our gorilla mother, to indicate a desired reaction from Moke and Kibibi during their play sessions.