Sunday, March 24, 2013

Naming the Tiger Cub - Animal Names at the San Francisco Zoo

If you have read even a handful of my posts, you have either read my opinions and issues with the Zoo's "process" (or more so, lack of), for naming Animals, or you have noticed that I often include two names for an Animal.  

I will try not to repeat myself for those who have already read these posts, but for those who haven't I must repeat a bit to make this a post that is a stand alone read.

These two posts mainly discusses the Zoo's constant renaming of newly acquired Animals who already have birth names.  Something that frankly, really pisses me off.   In short, if an Animal has a name it was given from birth, that is the name it should retain.  It is, like the rest of us, their identity.  Sadly the Zoo does not see it that way and could careless what they call them.  I think the Zoo Director should change her name and see how it feels.  I got a few suggestions.  

I didn't have as big a problem with it when I first heard about it several years ago.  That was because I knew that the Animals given names were being used by their Keepers.  That is different now.  For example, Siberian/Amur Tiger Shastyuh had he name changed to "Martha".   Her main Keeper Barb called her Shastyuh, (as well always called Leanne by her given name Skylar).  Since Barb is gone, those in charge call poor Shastyuh, Martha.  And to confuse her, they started the change by calling her ShastyuhMartha.   Awful. Now the poor girls just Martha.  When I hear them call her that, I look at her and think she's probably saying , "I got your Martha right here!"

So, what's my opinion on the names being given to Animals born at the San Francisco Zoo.  I have a few.  Some Animals, like the Cubs from Skylar's first litter were named by the Keepers.  Native names that had meaning.  BUT they were also auctioned off, giving them "public/donor names."  Again that was when the Keepers retained birth names.   In recent times the one newborn that I can think of to reference is Little Romo, named by Zoo Staff after a Giants ballplayer.  So, that name is her given name and its fine.  I would certainly prefer to have the Zoo and Donors stop naming and renaming Animals after ballplayers, but that seems to be the current mentality, as Donors not only think its "fun", but the Zoo in my opinion does it to grab Media attention.

Now, we come to sweet "Little Padang", Sumatran Cub without a name.  I was told recently her name would be auctioned off at Zoofest.  A literal frown came to my face.  What kind of name will she end up with?  Seeing as the Zoo has not named her themselves, a name that will follow her for life once she leaves here.  Meaning, her given name, like her parents would be listed as such in the Studbooks.  "Leanne" is listed as Skylar and "Larry" is listed as Taymor.  As is the others who have been renamed.  

I have been calling her "Little Padang" because for me that is the perfect name for her.  It honors her blood Auntie, who lived at the Zoo most of her life and recently passed away as the oldest living Tiger of any species in a North American Zoo.  Her new Uncle at the Sacramento Zoo has been named Castro Junior in honor of his Father (LP's Grandfather), since he has been battling some recent health issues.  A very sweet and touching tribute to not only his Father, but to an Animal that has contributed to the Sumatran Tiger population with this being the fifth Cub he has sired.

So, since I doubt any of the Donor's read this blog, because I doubt they do any research of their own in regards to the Zoo or the Animals that live there, I wonder just what kind of name this little girl will end up with.   Sadly, the Zoo's Director does not give any guidelines for naming Animals, and so many like poor Tucker the Hippo who ended up being the joke of a deep pocketed donor who named him Brian Wilson  (after a Giants ballplayer) while our Director just smiled and thanked him while taking his check.  Maybe she will end up being "Kelly", a donor who seems to want every new female Zoo friend named after her, as both Sable the Otter and Niya the Snow Leopard have recently been given the "Kelly" brand.

San Francisco Zoo, I understand the need for raising funds, but if you're not going to try to auction the rights to Sponsor the Animal (with a name plaque at the exhibit), which would be the better option to this crazy name game you play, at the very least provide these people with some guidelines, starting with no ballplayer name (or any celebrity for that matter) for this little girl OR any more of the Animals.  Suggest names with meaning even if they aren't of Native origin.  I don't have a problem with a common name I guess if its from birth, my real issue with that is the renaming.  Although I do think the name should mean something.

I wish the Zoo was more creative in fund raising, so they didn't have to auction names.  I'm sure other Zoo do it, but more often I hear of naming contests like the current one for the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo Lion Cubs.  Keepers narrowed down the suggestions to ones they liked best, which regardless of actual chosen percentages may be what they go for, but at least the names are a pool of thoughtful suggestions.  

Last year for the SFZoo Penguin naming, they did a contest, and it clearly said to choose a female name and they even gave character trait suggestions.  My friend Lee and I had great names, that meant something.  They said the little girl was always at the front, so my pick was Starlett.  Lee's was Serifina, which means Mermaid.  At least we thought about it.  The gal who won picked Russell Brand (a male British Comedian).   I about went postal.  No joke.  For one, if its going to be a random pick, someone should have taken the entries by hand and looked at the names a filtered them, otherwise it should not be random, but the best one chosen by the Keeper.  In this case I can't fault the Zoo, because they tried and it was the people who again think its funny to name something awful.  Thankfully, Keeper Anthony Brown did not let this name happen.  He had the winner chose another name.

This all said, I hope sweet "Little Padang" does not end up Kelly, a male ballplayer, or celebrity.

I apologize if I was kinda all over the place about this subject, I'm just over the disrespect of renaming and the naming in general of ballplayers!  I want this little girl to have a beautiful name that means something and doesn't just mean how much money will it gain.

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  1. I hope that the donors read your blogs. I am tired of animals being named after ballplayers that usually disappoint fans later with steroids or run-ins with the law. The ballplayers don't always visit and the visitors that visit the zoo arent all ball fans!!! If the zoo claims they like to educate and teach visitos about the animals, naming the animals by names from the country they originate in the proper way to go. I love seeing the names of african lions with african names. Also, and I know I sound like a broken record with that my dad was a professional dog trainer. You do not change names of animals when they have originally been trained with a different name. It confuses them and its dumb. I would hope that a donor chooses a name that fits our new little tiger. Her great Aunt was Padang. Padang passed away last year at the age of 22. She had style and grace and was absolutely amazing. If that is not the name a donor would choose, please pick an indonesian name that fits this new pretty little lady tiger.

    1. @Lee- Thank you for your comment. If Donors read my blog (along with Board Members) I would hope more things would change for the better at the Zoo and they haven't really. So, I have to assume they do not. ... Not only is renaming confusing, its disrespectful. Take Taymor for example. He was given this name as a Cub (so basically at birth). He is Six yrs old, and this is the name he knows. When he moved from his birth place Sacramento Zoo, to the Jackson Zoo where he came to SF from, they did not change his name. So he gets here and gets a new name, and when he moves to another Zoo for breeding sometime in the future as he probably will do, they will most likely use his given name and he won't know WTH is going on. Thankfully, when Georgie was here, Barb called him Bali, so when he moved to Point Definace Zoo, and they used his given name, at least he wasn't confused. UG I'm tired now. Just give the Animals proper names and let them keep their given names. Is it that hard? Good Grief.

  2. Thank you! Thank you for your commentary regarding zoo-naming/renaming practices. As one of the keepers who cared for Taymor and his two brothers, it broke my heart to hear of him referred to as "Larry"---I am also thankful in regards to your mention of C.J.--we were worried that the zoo would go the 'name raffle' route again (as they did with the last cub, Jingga), and were all VERY vocal in fighting for C.J. to keep his name. While it may not be a big deal to the general public/visitors to have bad, ridiculous, or just not thought out names, to those of us who are involved in the animal's life it makes a huge difference.

    1. @Zookeeper Triathlete - Thank you very much for your comment! I appreciate and value all the comments that are posted, but to have one from a Keeper who named one of the Animals I wrote about, give their opinion on this, in agreement, shows that this is not something that is just my opinion. ... Of course re CJ! I am following his journey and was very touched by his name. I did make a suggestion via Facebook (as Tiki Kim) that you call him Castrolito :) but anything that is in tribute to his papa is wonderful. I am glad you have found my blog and hope you will check in regularly to keep up with Taymor :) Did you see the "Welcome" post I made when he arrived? I would love to connect with you via email and ask you some questions. If you are interested my email is Thank you again!


*Thank you for your comment. All comments are appreciated and I try my best to reply back in a timely manner. Sometimes "timely" isn't possible, but I will reply to all comments at some point. Please check back.
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