#GorillaStory: Moke and Mandara

This update was written by primate keeper Melba Brown.

Now that our 13-week-old western lowland gorilla infant Moke is practicing his walking skills, we are beginning to see some interesting changes in the social dynamics of our mixed-sex troop. This week, I observed Moke’s mom, Calaya, place him on the hay and take a step back. At that point, he started to walk in her direction. While facing him, she continued to take steps back, encouraging him to walk! Moke looked directly at his mom and picked up the pace. Her encouragement was remarkable to see.

Western lowland gorilla Moke playing with an enrichment puzzle feeder.
Western lowland gorilla infant Moke plays with a puzzle feeder.

Calaya has recently started allowing Moke to spend time on his own, though he is still within a few feet of her. He will practice walking or climbing, and even took an interest in one of our enrichment puzzle feeder balls. We give these items to our primates to encourage them to use their natural foraging behavior. We place the apes’ lettuce and other vegetables inside. That way, they have to use cognitive skills and physical energy to obtain the treats inside. Moke actively seeks out food and will take bites and chew, though he still receives the majority of his nutrition from Calaya’s milk.