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#GorillaStory: Moke is Teething

  • Calaya cradles 7-week-old Moke in the Great Ape House.
    Calaya cradles Moke at the Great Ape House as visitors try to catch a glimpse of the 7-week-old infant.

In the past two weeks, our western lowland gorilla infant, Moke, has sprouted two new teeth. When he was five weeks old, the primate team observed two lower incisors break through his gums. Now, at 7 weeks old, he has two new upper incisors!

Primate infants tend to explore the world with their mouths, so it is no surprise that Moke is interested in testing out his new chompers. Over the past week, he has shown an interest in Calaya’s food. Not surprisingly, whenever he picks it up, Calaya takes the morsel before he can mouth it and eats it herself. Moke is quick to express his displeasure by having tiny tantrums. They only last a few seconds, though, before she comforts him.

Seven-week-old western lowland gorilla Moke in mom Calaya's arms.

Moke has four teeth: two upper incisors and two lower incisors.

Gorilla infants typically nurse for about three years, and they begin trying food around six months of age. However, I would not be surprised if Moke samples some solid foods before he turns 6 months old. When Moke tries to nurse now, there are times when Calaya will brush him away from her chest. It is clear that his new teeth are making nursing uncomfortable at times for her. Still, she is very patient with him. After he adjusts his mouth, he is able to nurse normally.

He continues to grow larger, stronger and more alert every day, so it is clear that he is not having any difficulties nursing. Often, after a nursing session, we will see his eyes get heavy, his head nod and a nap quickly ensue—a sure sign of a full belly. 

Western lowland gorilla Calaya shows her infant, Moke, to 9-year-old Kbibi.

Kibibi (right) has been very interested in Moke since he was born. She will often sit next to Calaya (left) and gently touch Moke's head.

It is only a matter of time before Moke begins exploring the Great Ape House habitat. When Calaya sets him down, he assumes a crawling position. Mom, however, is still not ready to let him roam. On one occasion, when Calaya moved Moke closer to her, he promptly chomped down on her forearm repeatedly in protest!

Now that Moke is a little older, Mandara and Kibibi have become noticeably more forceful with Calaya when trying to interact with him. Mandara will become piloerect (make herself look larger) and put her hand on Calaya, prompting her to move. Kibibi is not quite that assertive, but she will sit face-to-face with Calaya. Moke is usually nestled between them, and Kibibi will reach out and gently touch Moke’s head. Meanwhile, our team has observed Moke’s father, Baraka, saddling up to Calaya and interacting with his son.

Visitors can see Moke and our two gorilla troops every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Great Ape House! 

Follow the Zoo’s updates on Moke and the western lowland gorilla troop on social media with the hashtag #GorillaStoryStop 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.