Happy birthday, Moke!

On April 15th, the zoo’s adorable baby gorilla Moke had his first birthday. The zoo threw him a party, with special treats and presents. He spent the whole party clinging to his mother’s back, and let the other gorillas enjoy the festivities.

The highlight of the party was a frozen cake. Baraka, Moke’s father, took over the cake first.

After a short while, Moke’s mother Calaya gave his father that look, and he surrendered the cake to them.

Calaya immediately started to eat the treats on the cake, with Moke looking on from his perch on her back.

She then broke off a large chunk of the cake, taking it up high in the tree branches. Moke clung to her underbelly, but still didn’t get any cake.

Meanwhile, the other gorillas enjoyed opening some of the presents, which were decorated boxes with treats inside and peanut-butter glue holding them shut.

There were treats hidden in many places, and peanut butter to be scraped off the wall.

We’ve enjoyed watching Moke as he went from a tiny baby to a rambunctious one-year-old. He’s still pretty small – only 18 pounds, and his father is 400 pounds, so he has lots of growing still to do.

Happy birthday, Moke!

P.S. We are also including some photos of Moke from six months ago and, to our eyes at least, he hasn’t changed too much over the past half year.

Not that this time was uneventful — Moke fractured his femur in earlier this year. As The Washington Post reported in January, primate curator Meredith Bastian described the young gorilla as “a bit of a daredevil… It’s entirely possible that he landed the wrong way during one of his many jumps.” He seems to be on the mend, and ready to tackle another year.

Gorilla Facts (courtesy of the Smithsonian National Zoo):

  • Western Lowland Gorillas like Moke are both the smallest and least endangered subspecies of gorilla.
  • Each gorilla has unique fingerprints, just like humans. In addition, every gorilla also has a distinct “nose print.”
  • Young gorillas grow at twice the rate of humans for their first couple of years.
  • Calaya will serve as Moke’s taxi service for a while yet. Youngsters tend to ride on their mothers’ backs until they are three-and-a-half or four.
  • Gorillas live 30 to 40 years in the wild and sometimes into their 50s in zoos, so Moke will likely have many more opportunities to snag piece of birthday cake.

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