Moke, the National Zoo’s Western lowland gorilla infant, turned 6 months old on Monday.
On its Twitter feed, the D.C. zoo, said it was celebrating by looking back at some of the little guy’s best and cutest moments.
The biggest milestone for Moke is that he’s taken his first steps alone out in the yard — away from his mother, Calaya.
Zookeepers shared on the zoo’s blog how he recently “stuck close by her side, at times touching Calaya’s hand, as he stood up, walked around, foraged and sat down.” It is a sign, zoo experts said, that his confidence is growing, and they called his progress “amazing,” given that he’s just 6 months old.
Moke, like a human infant, is showing signs of exploring his world and growing.
He can jump off his mother’s back and “climb back on again with great aplomb,” zookeepers said. (Kids, don’t try that one at home.) Zoo officials said he has a lot of energy, and they find him “mesmerizing to watch,” as he’s becoming more adventurous, especially by day, because he’s active and busy.
At times, he reaches out to another gorilla — Kibibi — and waves his arm up and down. Sometimes, he’ll run fast without wobbling or falling, another sign zookeepers said of his development.
The zoo officially declared him to be a “Big Boy,” as his movements are becoming more fluid and less wobbly. In one video, Moke is seen eating an ear of corn.
And father and son have had good interactions, too, the zoo said.
Baraka, Moke’s father — a 400-plus-pound, 26-year-old silverback gorilla — recently walked up to his roughly eight-pound gorilla son and “gently poked him with one finger,” zookeepers said. Moke responded by falling “over in a dramatic fashion.” The zoo said, Baraka then “made his way over to Kibibi and poked her with his finger,” too.
The interaction between the father and son is a big deal, because early on when Moke was still a newborn, his mother didn’t allow Baraka to come too close, and the father kept his distance. Occasionally, she’d let him gently touch Moke’s head, keepers said, or hold his hand.
The name Moke, pronounced “mo-KEY,” means “junior” or “little one” in the Lingala language of Africa. He was born April 15 and joined six other gorillas at the zoo.
Moke’s figured out one of the gorillas' favorite treats — eating peanut butter and sunflower seeds out of a piece of PVC tube.
Recently, Calaya used a stick to get her treat out of the pipe, and Moke hung on her, trying to get some. At one point, she let out a “low-key ‘bark,' ” zookeepers said, and nudged him slightly to let him know to stop.
Moke got his own treat from keepers — pieces of fruit — and when his mom put down the pipe, he got a little taste of it.
The little gorilla has been going through physical changes, as well. Zookeepers said his hair is longer, and the white patch on his rump is more visible. His palms and feet once had some pink coloration, and they’ve now turned mostly black. And like any infant, he’s teething. Experts said his molars have come in, and he’s been seen play-biting at other gorillas.
Western lowland gorillas like Moke are “critically endangered,” the zoo said. Experts said in a recent blog on Moke that these gorillas are “at risk of becoming extinct in the wild.”
They face several challenges in the wild and in captivity. They are especially susceptible to the flu, the Ebola virus and the common cold. And they still face poaching and illegal hunting. In some parts of the world, people view gorilla’s hands, feet, pelts and skulls as a trophy for apparel, charms or traditional medicines, according to zoo experts.