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#GorillaStory: Just Like Mom

  • Western lowland gorilla Calaya and her 9-week-old son, Moke.

This update was written by primate keeper Melba Brown.

Our western lowland gorilla infant Moke is nine weeks old, and he is taking in all of the sights, sounds and scents around him. I thought he would be a bit older before he began exhibiting behaviors reminiscent of either Calaya or Baraka. However, I can say unequivocally that Moke is just like his mom!

He may be small in stature, but Moke can be feisty and persistent. At times, watching Calaya trying to contain his flailing limbs seems like she’s trying to contain an octopus out of water! He is determined when he wants to explore, and recently I witnessed Calaya grunt at him with displeasure when he would not settle down. Now, Moke has eight teeth—four uppers and four lowers. Before, Moke would express his displeasure by biting Calaya’s arm. Now, I see him gnawing her legs, hands and feet. Mom simply shifts her body, and then he settles down. 

Calaya has decided that Moke needs to spend minimal time on his own. Periodically, she places him down on the hay and steps away from him. When Moke is in physical contact with Calaya, he is eager to attempt a crawl or climb. However, when she places him away from her body, within seconds he wails in distress. Calaya is always quick to scoop him up and hold him to her chest to comfort him.

Although Moke sticks quite close to mom, he is eager to interact with other members of the troop. Kibibi’s fascination with Moke continues, and she has been making plaintive ‘coo’ vocalizations, which indicate that she is interested in holding him. Moke reaches out and grabs her from time to time, but the time is not ripe for her to hold him. Once he gets his footing and is able to move about the enclosure confidently on his own, we will likely see great interactions between those two. The primate team is anxiously awaiting the day when the two of them can play together.  

Mandara still gives Calaya and Moke their space, but she has started sitting closer to them with greater frequency. If Calaya allows, Mandara will put her hand on Moke; her pleasure rumbles are plentiful at moments like this.

Baraka continues to be a strong and gentle presence in the group. He will recline near Calaya and Moke, and he will even reach out and groom Calaya.

The encounters between Moke and his troop are mesmerizing to watch. For visitors hoping to catch a glimpse of Moke, the best time to see him is from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. when the family has their morning forage, and after 1:30 p.m. when we give the gorillas their afternoon enrichment. And, the gorilla keeper talk takes place every day at 11:30 a.m. at the Great Ape House. Please stop by and say hello—we love sharing Moke’s story! 

Follow all of the latest Moke news with the hashtag #GorillaStory. Planning a trip to the Zoo to see the gorillas? Get the most out of your visit! Check out the schedule of animal encounters.