Ahkup, Doris, and Roberta

Complicated relationship drama can occur in other primate families, too—including orangutans!
  • 1940s
  • 1950s

A headstrong female orangutan came to the Zoo in 1948 with a name—Doris—and an attitude. She refused all attempts to change her name to something perhaps more suitable for an ape from the mystic east, and would only respond to Doris, so it stuck.

In 1949, she was joined by fellow orangs Ahkup and Batavia. Ahkup was as suspicious and untrusting as Batavia was docile and friendly. In 1955, Ahkup and Batavia had the first orangutan baby born at the Zoo, a female named Noelle, because she was born on Christmas Day. Noelle was the apple of everyone’s eye and quite the celebrity, appearing on the weekly live television program ZOORAMA.

Ahkup sired another daughter, Roberta, in February of 1958—but this time, the mother was Doris. Like Noelle, little Roberta was raised in the nursery, where she took part in many public events. She even took her half-sister’s place in the Children’s Zoo’s Ape Island when Noelle left the Zoo to pursue Hollywood stardom. Roberta was an ambassador of sorts in October 1959, when the Zoo had a company gathering for California Bank of Los Angeles, the first event of its kind giving a group its own “day” at the Zoo.

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