The National Zoo’s infant gorilla has a broken leg, and zoo officials aren’t sure how it happened.
Moke, a western lowland gorilla born April 15, fractured his femur. In a statement, primate curator Meredith Bastian noted that the youngster “can be a bit of a daredevil.”
“We do not know how Moke broke his leg,” Bastian said. “It is entirely possible that he landed the wrong way during one of his many jumps.”
The moment the fracture occurred wasn’t seen, leaving zoo officials to speculate. The femur runs between the hip and knee and in humans is the body’s longest and strongest bone.
Zookeepers noticed something amiss on Jan. 27, when Moke began favoring his left leg. After further observation, they decided to anesthetize the limping infant to learn more about his injury.
It was also necessary to anesthetize his mother because zookeepers couldn’t examine Moke while his mother was in a position to object.
“It would not have been safe,” the zoo said.
On Jan. 29, radiographs on the infant’s lower left thigh revealed the fracture. Zoo officials said the fracture was “not significantly displaced — the two pieces are not separated from one another.”
Jennifer Zoon, a spokeswoman for the zoo, said the break is just above the knee.
Zookeepers said they had three options for handling the injury: Place the leg in a cast, insert a plate or let Moke be, while trying to limit his movement.
The zoo went for the third option, which comes with the benefit of no more anesthesia.
Zoo officials said Moke will be watched closely, with particular attention paid to signs of pain or physical changes, such as swelling.
Zoon said keepers opted not to put a cast on his leg based on the location and nature of the fracture. Plus, she said, it’s likely that “he or his parents would not tolerate the cast and pick at it.”
Describing Moke as being as playful as ever, the zoo said it was “cautiously optimistic” that healing would occur without any need for further intervention. The “good news is that the break is not through the growth plate — a good indicator that this injury will not affect his growth,” according to the zoo’s statement.
Zoon said keepers have also put extra hay where Moke could potentially climb. If he “takes a tumble,” she said, “he will fall softly on the hay.”