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Where EAST meets the Northwest

FIRST-TIME MOM. Bornean orangutan Kitra is seen holding her newborn baby in her behind-the-scenes maternity den at the Oregon Zoo. Kitra, a 20-year-old first-time mom, gave birth on April 13, 2022. (Photo/Scott Jackson, courtesy of the Oregon Zoo)

BORNEAN BABY. Bornean orangutan Kitra is seen caring for her three-week-old baby in early May at the Oregon Zoo. The newest orangutan’s name — Jolene — is inspired by the line in the Dolly Parton classic song that goes, "Your beauty is beyond compare / with flaming locks of auburn hair." (Photo/Michael Durham, courtesy of the Oregon Zoo)

From The Asian Reporter, V32, #6 (June 6, 2022), pages 14 & 15.

New Bornean orangutan baby is given a name — Jolene

The Oregon Zoo’s newest Bornean orangutan now has a name — Jolene. The name is inspired by the line in the Dolly Parton classic song that goes, "Your beauty is beyond compare / with flaming locks of auburn hair."

On April 13 at about 11:00am, the baby of 20-year-old Kitra and 16-year-old Bob arrived, adding to the world population of the critically endangered species. First-time mom Kitra took care of little Jolene for several weeks in her behind-the-scenes maternity den to give her and the baby as much quiet time as possible and allow them to bond.

Kitra’s care team worked with her throughout the pregnancy to help her prepare for motherhood, including training her for voluntary ultrasounds so the vet staff could closely monitor her progress. Using orangutan stuffies made by zoo volunteers, they taught her how to hold her baby properly to nurse and how to present Jolene to care staff once she felt ready, so the health of the young orangutan could be checked.

Senior keeper Asaba Mukobi said Kitra "pulled the baby close to her right away." Animal-care staff took a hands-off approach from the beginning and have been monitoring the pair closely.

Orangutan babies are born after a gestation period of around 8.5 months and typically weigh a little over 3 pounds at birth. Young orangutans are completely dependent on their moms for food and getting around during their first two years of life. The bond between an orangutan mom and her baby is one of the closest of any species.

With the weather improving, the auburn-haired Jolene and her mom may spend more time in their outdoor habitat.

"Kitra can decide whether she and Jolene are up for a trip outside or if they’d rather have privacy," said Kate Gilmore, who oversees the zoo’s primate area. "As Jolene gets older and more curious, we expect them to be outside more and more."

According to Gilmore, Kitra hasn’t needed much help with Jolene. Issues with lactation and basic mothering skills are not uncommon, especially among first-time moms, but caregivers were hopeful that Kitra’s experience watching others helped. Although Jolene is her first offspring, she observed another orangutan, Kera Wak, raise a baby at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo in 2014.

Kitra moved to the Oregon Zoo in 2015 from Cleveland, joining male orangutan Bob, who had arrived from South Carolina’s Greenville Zoo the previous year. Both moves were based on a recommendation from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ (AZA) Species Survival Plan (SSP) for orangutans. The AZA has established SSPs for many threatened or endangered species — cooperative programs that help create genetically diverse, self-sustaining populations to guarantee the long-term future of the animals. The SSPs also support relevant field projects, research, and public education.

Orangutans are critically endangered, largely due to habitat loss driven by logging and the conversion of forests into palm oil plantations. About 90% of the world’s palm oil is produced on the only two islands where orangutans live. When orangutans lose habitat, they also become easy targets for hunters, who often capture young orangutans for the illegal pet trade.

The Oregon Zoo is located at 4001 S.W. Canyon Road in Portland. To learn more, call (503) 226-1561 or visit <>. To view videos of Kitra and Jolene, visit <> and <>.

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