Oregon Zoo’s Baby Orangutan Named After Dolly Parton’s Song

A line from an iconic Dolly Parton song led Oregon Zoo staff to choose “Jolene” as the name of the baby orangutan born last month.

The song describes Jolene “with flamboyant streaks of auburn hair” — just like the new primate, according to a press release from the Oregon Zoo.

Jolene was born on April 13 to her first mother Kitra, a Bornean orangutan who has lived at the zoo since 2015.

Zoo staff had been preparing to help the 20-year-old orangutan with the early days of motherhood, but Kitra ‘hasn’t needed much help becoming a parent so far’, according to the press release.

It took a few weeks to name the zoo’s newest family member, as staff members were unsure of the baby’s sex.

“Because we give Kitra and her baby a lot of space to bond, we couldn’t tell if she had a boy or a girl until recently,” said Kate Gilmore, who oversees the zoo’s primate area, in the release.

“Once we confirmed it was a girl, our care team knew right away what they wanted to call her,” Gilmore said. “They’ve been playing the song on repeat ever since.”

Gilmore said visitors might be lucky enough to spot Jolene and her mother spending more time in their outdoor habitat.

Infant orangutans are completely dependent on their mother for their first two years, making the bond between a mother and her child very close, the statement said.

–Kristine de Leon, kdeleon@oregonian.com, 503-221-8506