“The best medicine in the world is a mother’s kiss.” Moke, a newborn gorilla, learned this in his earliest life experience.
Moke’s mother, Calaya, is an endangered western lowland gorilla from the Smithsonian National Zoo, and despite not being experienced with children, her maternal instinct kicked in, and she handled it like a natural.
You can see in the footage above how much love Calaya has for her newborn, she expresses it clearly by giving him kisses.
Moke is the first western lowland gorilla born at the zoo in nine years. Baraka, his father who is a 450-pound gorilla, watched along with his gorilla friends and let out what is described as a ‘pleasure rumble’ when the delivery was complete.
The staff at the zoo are ‘cautiously optimistic’ about young Moke’s future. They will allow Calaya to nurse him naturally and feel confident that her mothering skills will work out well.
The staff helped her prepare by showing her photos of other mother gorillas, giving her a baby gorilla toy, showing her how to nurse the baby when it comes, and other relevant parental behaviors.
“As soon as a gorilla is born, the mother’s instincts kick in and she will begin to groom the baby,” Jack Hannam Director Emeritus of the Columbus Zoo told PEOPLE. “It can look a lot like human kissing! But, it looks like she is actually using her lips to groom the baby and likely did it over the baby’s whole body.”
“Gorillas can be amazing, attentive parents, and watching these babies grow has been a highlight of my career.”
The Smithsonian National Zoo had a similar response:
“The birth of this western lowland gorilla is very special and significant, not only to our Zoo family but also to this critically endangered species as a whole.
The primate team’s goal was to set Calaya up for success as best we could, given that she is a first-time mother. Doing so required great patience and dedication on the part of my team, and I am very proud of them and Calaya.”
“We all saw everything. We saw the birth. We saw the five hours of labor … We were all kind of shaking a little with happiness. It was an amazing moment to share with the team. We were all really close to tears.”
Just have a look at their first full day together:
Now if for any reason Calaya is unable to care for Moke, the staff at the zoo have already prepared another older, experienced female gorilla to take over as a foster mother. The female, called Mandara, even fostered Baraka (Moke’s father) in the past.
“This infant’s arrival triggers many emotions — joy, excitement, relief — and pride that all of our perseverance in preparing Calaya for motherhood has paid off,” said animal keeper Melba Brown in the zoo’s statement.
“We will provide support to her if need be, but I have every confidence that Calaya will be a great mom to Moke. I am excited to see how he will fit into the group dynamic. There are a lot of different personalities in this family troop, but they all work well together.”