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Gorilla family update: Kitoko is six months old!

Posted by Elizabeth Bacher, Communications
Photos and video by Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren

Kitoko, seen here with mom Uzumma, is 6 months old now. 

It’s time for an update on our wonderful western lowland gorilla family, with the latest scoop from dedicated gorilla keepers, Stephanie and Judy! We wanted to start with the newest family member, little Kitoko. The 6-month-old baby boy—born to Uzumma and Kwame on March 4—is doing great and keeping his mama on her toes. You may recall that he was injured in a family scuffle several months ago, but he has recovered from that and continues to be right on track with physical and developmental milestones.

6-month-old Kitoko is bright-eyed and curious. He can often be seen reaching for and grasping everything he can get his hands on, including pieces of solid food that Uzumma may have dropped. 

Bright-eyed and curious about everything around him, our awesome gorilla keepers tell us Kitoko seems to already recognize his name—looking towards them when they call to him. His motor skills are developing well, too. He can often be seen grasping branches, climbing on structures in his habitat (until he gets too high for comfort and quickly makes his way back down to Uzumma), reaching towards anything, or anyone that interests him—including family members—and chewing pieces of solid food that he takes from mom. His growing interest in food is also a great way to encourage the development of his climbing skills. Our keepers say all they have to do is push some tasty greens through one of the mesh squares high up on a wall in the behind-the-scenes area. Once Kitoko sees that, he zips right up!

Uzumma usually keeps her baby within an arm's reach. 

Kitoko has quite a few teeth now and while he still gets most of his nourishment from nursing (baby gorillas can continue to nurse for several years), he can often be seen tasting greens that Uzumma may have dropped, or other fruits and veggies when he can get his hands on them. Some early favorites appear to be grapes and orange peels that Uzumma lets him chew on every evening after she’s eaten most of the fruity part with her dinner.

For the most part, Uzumma is keeping Kitoko within an arm’s (or a leg’s) reach, but she’s getting more and more comfortable with letting him have some contact with other members of the family. Our keepers have seen Yola, who is nearly 5 years old, reach out to him and he reaches back—the two of them briefly touching hands. They say Yola is very interested in her nephew (she and Uzumma are half-sisters) and appears eager to capture his attention and to play with him.

Video update with gorilla keeper Judy. Watch:

All of these are wonderful developments as they not only show growing confidence of mother and baby, but they also show that Kitoko’s world is expanding beyond his mom to include more interactions with his family. The group seems more than happy to demonstrate that a family that plays together, stays together. Kwame, Uzumma, and Yola have great play sessions together, where they gently wrestle and chase one another while Kitoko holds on to either Uzumma’s arm or leg as she moves around. She has also just started placing him on her back—a common way for mother gorillas to carry their babies. Initially, Kitoko didn’t seem to have as much enthusiasm for this new method as his mom did—preferring to stick with his comfortable way of hitching a ride on her arm or leg. But having had some time to practice, he is now embracing this new way of getting around!

Previously, Kitoko would hitch a ride by grabbing a hold of one of Uzumma's arms or legs, but now he is getting the hang of riding piggy-back—a common way for mother gorillas to carry their babies. 

As for the rest of the group, Akenji has also been showing intermittent interest in Kitoko, but unlike Yola, she never pushes it and Uzumma usually moves off before she gets too close. And Nadiri continues to watch all that is going on, mostly from afar. Vip and Jumoke, the oldest of our gorillas, are doing well too. They live in a separate habitat adjacent to the younger and more boisterous group.

Yola and Akenji have both shown varying degrees of interest in Kitoko. Yola often gets quite close to him, seeming eager to play—while Akenji holds back a little more.
Kwame, Kitoko's father and silverback of the group, is always close to his family and is frequently seen gently wrestling and playing with Uzumma and Yola.

Want more ways to celebrate Kitoko's six-month benchmarks?

Celebrate Kitoko with a symbolic animal adoption! Adopt now and help fund conservation programs and the daily care and feeding of baby Kitoko, mom Uzumma and all zoo inhabitants. Adopt a Gorilla Today!

Recycling cell phones with ECO-CELL helps save Gorillas! Woodland Park Zoo is proud to partner with ECO-CELL to recycle e-waste responsibly. In 2018, we collected and recycled 270lbs of electronics donated by visitors like you! Learn more about ECO-CELL

Are you more of a Yola or an Akenji? Take this quiz and we'll tell you which member of Kwame's group matches your personality. Take the quiz, then share your results on social and ask your network to learn a thing or two about gorillas.

Remember to check out for the latest news and stories about little Kitoko and his troop!


Anonymous said…
Thank you so much for this update and for the video in particular.
It is so gratifying to see Uzumma as an excellent mother, modeling for the others how baby care is done. This is part of Amanda's legacy as well.
Thank you too for the update on Vip and Jumoke. Love you, Vip!
Unknown said…
Wonderful update and pics! Thanks so much!