“A mother’s kiss is the finest medicine in the world.” Moke, a baby gorilla, discovered this early in his life.
Calaya, Moke’s mother, is an endangered western lowland gorilla from the Smithsonian National Zoo, and despite her lack of experience with children, her maternal instinct kicked in and she handled it like a pro.
Calaya’s love for her child is evident in the video above, as she exhibits it plainly by kissing him. Moke is the zoo’s first western lowland gorilla to be born in nine years. When the birth was complete, his father, a 450-pound gorilla, let out what is described as a ‘joy rumble’ with his gorilla companions.
The zoo’s staff is ‘cautiously hopeful’ about young Moke’s future. They will let Calaya milk him naturally and our confidence in her mothering abilities. The staff assisted her preparation by showing her images of previous mother gorillas, giving her a baby gorilla doll, demonstrating how to nurse the baby when it arrives, and demonstrating other key parenting activities.
“As soon as a gorilla is born, the mother’s instincts kick in and she begins to groom the newborn,” Columbus Zoo Director Emeritus Jack Hannam told PEOPLE. “It can resemble human kissing!” However, it appears like she is grooming the infant with her lips and has done so all over the baby’s body.”
“Gorillas can be fantastic, attentive parents, and it’s been a thrill of my profession to see these infants grow.” “The birth of this western lowland gorilla is particularly important and significant, not just to our Zoo family, but also to this critically endangered species in general.”
Given that Calaya is a first-time mother, the primate team’s objective was to help her succeed as much as possible. This needed a lot of patience and devotion from my staff, and I am really proud of them and Calaya.”
“Everything was visible to us all. We witnessed the birth. We witnessed the five hours of work… We were all kind of shaking a bit with delight. It was an incredible experience to share with the crew. We were all on the verge of tears.”
If Calaya is unable to care for Moke for whatever reason, the zoo’s staff has previously prepared another older, more experienced female gorilla to step in as a foster mother. Mandara, the female, had previously nurtured Baraka (Moke’s father).
“This infant’s arrival evokes many emotions — pleasure, excitement, relief — and pride that all of our work in preparing Calaya for motherhood has come off,” said animal keeper Melba Brown in a statement released by the zoo.
“We will assist her if necessary, but I am confident that Calaya will be an excellent mother to Moke.” I’m looking forward to seeing how he fits into the group dynamic. This family troop has a wide range of personalities, yet they all get along well.”