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Let's Name Baby Lions!
Peter Tatara - June 5, 2010

Late last year, a baby stork was born in the Bronx Zoo. Late last year, the Bronx Zoo held a contest to name said stork, too. I submitted the name "MacGyver" accompanied by a bulleted list of the reasons there was no better name for a bird in the world. The zoo named the thing "Kazira". One could think I'd grow bitter after this experience, but here we are now on the verge of summer, and I'm on my way to the Bronx Zoo again. And not just to enjoy the wholesome family fun, educational animal enrichment sessions, and fantastic zoo pizza. No, I'm on my way to the zoo because, just weeks ago, three lion cubs were born.

Like with the zoo's stork, visitors could submit their recommendations for names, and -- in a new twist -- attendees could this time vote for the winner. For the record, I am bitter about the stork debacle last year, and that's why, this year, I had a cunning plan. I submitted my recommended names for the newborn lions. Twice. That's right. But I didn't submit the same names twice. Oh no, you see, I submitted two different sets of names, doubling my odds of getting selected. Cunning, I know.

So, what were my names?

Adama, Starbuck, and Boomer. RC, Jolt, and Mr. Green. Perhaps I need to explain. The lion cubs consist of one little boy and two girls, and I pondered what trio of names would be appropriate, stirring, and evocative, given wings from the popular zeitgeist. I trust if you conduct this exercise you'll similarly come to the inevitable conclusion that Battlestar Galatica's Adama, Starbuck, and Boomer are universally the best names for baby lions. "Adama" means stalwart, brave, and committed to seeing things through to the end. "Starbuck" is an expression of the mysteries of the universe -- the unknowns, the miracles, and the divine -- and the common yearnings of all faiths. "Boomer" is because Grace Park is a hottie. As for the more arcane second set of names, I should note here that these cubs have an older sibling, a sister already dubbed "Moxie". To continue this tradition, I devised naming the three new lions after similarly enigmatic soft drinks, beverages that, like Moxie, are storied, obscure, or extinct. RC, Jolt, and Mr. Green.

God, how I loved Mr. Green, and how I wept when it disappeared from shelves close to ten years ago.

So, I submitted each trio of names to the Bronx Zoo, certain that two entries would undoubtedly land me in a good place. They did not. For, the Bronx Zoo's finalist list was composed of... Sahara, Savannah and Upepo. Nkiru, Penda, and Kamili. Imani, Bahari, and Dakarai. Asali, Mbali, and Bakari. And Nala, Shani, and Adamma.

Seriously? I get that lions come from Africa, but they were born here in New York City. Would it have killed the zoo to have included some more diverse names as finalists? Instead, putting on my Big Dumb White Guy hat, voters had five sets of nearly identical names to select from. Where's the excitement in that? Where's the drama? And what about poor Moxie?

The contest just wrapped, the winners have been announced, and I'm on my way to the Bronx Zoo today to see the newly christened Nala ( "gift" in Swahili), Shani ("wonderful" in Swahili), and Adamma ("beautiful child" in Igbo).

But, here's the thing, you gotta know why this trio won, right? "Adamma". It's clear these names made it into the finals as someone saw my entry, couldn't get it passed, but knew "Adama" was spot on for a lion cub. As such, they got this similar entry approved instead, and the commonality wasn't lost on voters, who consciously (or perhaps unconsciously) picked Nala, Shani, and Adamma because they respected the old man for getting his boat and all the souls aboard to Earth.

Looking to the future, I'm hoping this is a watershed moment leading to sillier, kitschier, geekier names for newborn animals in all of New York City's zoos and aquariums. There's still a long way to go, but it's a noble fight, and I hope you'll join me in it.

I won't rest until Davros the Penguin waddles across the rocks in the Central Park Zoo's arctic bird house.

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