This update was written by primate keeper Melba Brown.
At six weeks old, western lowland gorilla Moke is already showing interest in exploring his surroundings. Despite his adventurous spirit, mom Calaya continues to hold Moke close. She is not quite ready for him to assert his independence, but she will occasionally place him on or near her feet so he can explore within arm’s reach.
Although Baraka, Moke's father, does not interact with him on the same level that Calaya, Mandara and Kibibi do, he is still a presence in the troop and is protective of his son. Calaya held Moke upside down to clean him the other day, and the youngster let out a loud squeal! Baraka approached mom and infant and made a pleasure rumble vocalization to show his contentment, and Calaya followed suit. This seemed to soothe Moke; it was very sweet to watch them rally together.
Calaya has a strong will and personality, so the Great Ape team is curious to see how Moke will turn out—will he be more like Calaya or Baraka? One thing is for sure: he couldn’t be any cuter!
Calaya is extremely gentle with Moke, but a fierce streak lies right beneath the surface. Our bachelor troop, Kojo and Kwame, are housed separately from Calaya and Moke’s troop, but they are able to see, smell and interact with them through the mesh “howdy” door of their adjacent enclosure.
One morning, Calaya and Moke were resting in a nest next to Kojo’s enclosure when he quickly approached the door and beat his chest, a behavior known as a “display.” She jumped up, stomped her feet, ran over to the howdy door and hit the mesh—all while holding Moke! She let Kojo know, in no uncertain terms, that she did not approve of his behavior. She was ready to relax, and he interrupted her calm environment. In response, Kojo displayed again and was met with dramatically punctuated vocalizations from Calaya. They settled down after a few moments. It was fascinating to watch the interaction between them. One thing is for sure; Calaya continues to assert her dominance whenever the opportunity arises and without hesitation.
The best time for visitors to see Moke is during feeding time, when Calaya is very active. Every morning between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m., the troop has a group forage, which can be indoors or outdoors. If they are eating indoors, she will sit at the windowsill and face the visitors with Moke clinging to her belly. If they are outside, she likes to hang out on the wooden climbing structure, or she will sit in the chute between enclosures. Mid-day is nap time for the gorillas, but around 1:30 p.m. we feed them, set out enrichment items for the apes to investigate and conduct training sessions. Stop by and say 'hello' to Moke!
Follow the Zoo’s updates on Moke and the western lowland gorilla troop on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #GorillaStory. Stop by the Great Ape House at 11:30 a.m. daily to catch our keeper talk and get the latest updates on Moke and the troop.