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#GorillaStory: Moke and Kibibi

This update was written by primate keeper Melba Brown.

It is hard to believe, but on Sunday our western lowland gorilla infant Moke will turn three months old! As I mentioned in our June 22 update, Moke is very much like his mother, Calaya, in personality. In the past few weeks, the primate team has seen his confidence grow exponentially.

His skill level in terms of walking and climbing do not quite match that confidence yet, but he is persistent in trying. His coordination is improving day by day, and it is only a matter of time before he gets his full footing. Calaya will prop a soft bed of hay under him while he walks. If he falls, she does not intervene right away; rather, she will let him figure out how to turn and right himself.

Three-month-old western lowland gorilla Moke attempts to walk.

One exciting development over the past week is Moke’s relationship with Kibibi. While Calaya was foraging on alfalfa, Moke took the opportunity to make his way over to Kibibi all by himself! She was very intrigued by him and proceeded to inspect him from head to toe, gently touching his head and his back. The whole time she kept one eye on Calaya, who was relaxed during the encounter.

Kibibi holding western lowland gorilla infant Moke as he climbs.

Three-month-old Moke (left) walked over to 9-year-old Kibibi (right) for a play session while mom, Calaya, foraged for alfalfa hay a short distance away.

I had a similar experience with Moke, who moved towards me and pulled himself onto the mesh. Calaya allowed me to check Moke’s mouth, and I could see a ninth tooth erupting on his upper palate. During all of these interactions, she is watching closely. When she decides that such interactions are done, she will gently scoop Moke up and go about her day.

Kibibi gently touches 3-month-old Moke's head.

Kibibi gently touched Moke's head during their encounter.

Meanwhile, Baraka continues to sit near Calaya and Moke, paying close attention to his son. He shows a lot of interest in Moke and seems eager to interact with him. He will no doubt make a great playmate when Moke (and Calaya) are ready!

Follow all of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo’s latest Moke news, photos and videos 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.