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#GorillaStory: Moke the Explorer

This update was written by primate keeper Matt Spence.

Today, Moke turns two months old! The process of watching our western lowland gorilla infant grow has been extraordinary, and our animal care team feels very fortunate that we are able to share the details of Moke’s growth and development with Zoo fans all over the world.

It is amazing how quickly time has gone by. In recent weeks, we have watched his personality develop. He is just as curious as ever, but now he is becoming bolder and more interested in those around him.

During training sessions with his mom, Calaya, Moke watches our interactions closely. On occasion, he will reach through the mesh to touch keepers’ hands or investigate the food rewards mom is receiving. While Calaya is training, Moke will either sit on the ground near her legs or stand, holding on to her for balance. At this age, he is interested in playing and exploring as much as mom will allow.

Since our last #GorillaStory update, Moke has been able to taste two new foods—lettuce and primate chow—without interference from Calaya. He does not eat the food; rather, he will mouth it or take a quick taste before spitting it out. He still receives all of his nutrients exclusively from mom’s milk and won’t begin ingesting new foods for a few months.

Moke gets stronger every day. When Calaya walks or runs through the exhibit, she no longer needs to keep a hand on him—he hangs on tight, all on his own! Moke is not quite at the point where he can support himself on all fours, but we expect that day is coming soon. During one training session, he latched onto the mesh and would not let go. It took a bit of force for Calaya to remove him from that spot.

Western lowland gorilla Baraka at the Great Ape House.

Celebrate Father's Day June 17 with Moke's father, Baraka!

We are seeing Moke become more interested in the members of his troop. He interacts most with Kibibi, who has stuck closely by Calaya ever since Moke’s birth. He will initiate contact with her by reaching out and touching her hand, and she will respond by gently touching his head. Mandara, too, has been approaching and interacting with Moke. Initially, she gave Calaya and Moke a lot of space. Now that he’s a bit older, she will approach the pair and give him a kiss on the top of his head. Baraka is still very interested in his son, though is much less hands-on than Kibibi and Mandara. He mostly observes from a distance, but will approach and interact with Moke if Calaya doesn’t move away.

To celebrate Father’s Day this Sunday, June 17, we will be having some special treats for all of the fathers at the Great Ape House and Think Tank. Allen’s swamp monkey Nub Armstrong and his daughter, Zawadi, will receive enrichment treats at Think Tank around 10 a.m. Over at the Great Ape House, Baraka will receive an ice cake made by the Zoo’s Department of Nutrition Sciences around 11:30 a.m. Bornean orangutan Kyle and his son, Redd, will also receive a frozen treat at that time. Please note, though, that they may be in either the Great Ape House or Think Tank, depending on where they choose to spend their time. 

We hope you will join us as we celebrate our amazing animal fathers!

Follow the Zoo’s updates on Moke and the western lowland gorilla troop on social media with the hashtag #GorillaStory. Stop by the Great Ape House at 11:30 a.m. daily to meet one of Moke’s keepers and get the latest updates on the troop.