#Gorilla Story: Moke makes a move

Primate keeper Melba Brown takes us behind the scenes as baby western lowland gorilla Moke begins to explore his world..

This has been an exciting week for the Smithsonian’s National Zoo’s western lowland gorilla troop! Moke, who is now 10 weeks old, is starting to get the hang of walking. It is not a full walk—he is still a bit wobbly and only moves a few inches at a time—but it is clear that his mom, Calaya, is comfortable letting Moke venture off.

Yesterday, I watched him climb over Calaya’s leg and hoist himself up so that he was standing bipedally on his hind legs. He held onto the mesh for balance, but it is clear that his legs are getting stronger and steadier every day. Calaya does not seem to be concerned that he wants to walk, but that could be because he cannot go very far at the moment. If he does go farther than she would like, she calmly picks him up and brings him back over to her.

Baby gorilla clinging to mother

Moke’s preferred method of getting around is still holding on to Calaya. Lately, he’s been hitching a ride on her arm, which is really adorable to watch! (Photo by Melba Brown, June 28, 2018)

Recently, Calaya initiated a fascinating encounter with Kibibi. I was interacting with her when Calaya suddenly ran over and pointedly patted her on the back to get her attention. Kibibi followed Calaya to a corner where she was able to touch Moke.

Baby gorilla among adults

Moke is surrounded by his extended family, June 28, 2018. (Photo by Melba Brown)

A few moments later, Calaya allowed Moke to walk away from her and toward Kibibi. Mom sat back and watched the pair interact for a while. Then, Baraka moved in. Moke was enveloped by three gorillas, all of whom were very content and pleasure rumbling!

Baby gorilla amid adults

Moke (center) looks up at his father, Baraka (left) while his mother, Calaya, looks on. The Zoo’s 9-year-old female western lowland gorilla, Kibibi (right), got to spend some one-on-one time with Moke June 28! (Photo by Melba Brown)

Mandara has been looking for some Moke time, too. She approached Calaya, Moke and Kibibi with her hair standing on end, vocalized and wrapped her arm around Calaya and Moke, and gently touched his face.

Baby being held by mother

Moke and mother Calaya, June 28, 2018. (Photo by Melba Brown)

All of us on the primate team are looking forward to seeing how Moke’s interactions with his troop members evolve in the coming weeks!

Follow the latest updates on Moke using 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 encountersMeet a gorilla keeper every day at 11:30 a.m. at the Great Ape House. This update was written by primate keeper Melba Brown and originally published by the Zoo’s website.

Posted: 9 July 2018
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