The Oklahoma City Zoo is looking to the public to help name its 176-pound newborn rhinoceros.
The male Indian rhino was born June 21 at the zoo. The contest to name the animal runs through Thursday. The winning name will be announced July 14. Those interested in voting can visit www.okczoo.com.
When Malee the elephant was named, the zoo received about 18,000 votes over 10 days.
The three choices the public can vote on are:
Rupert – This name is a twist on the currency of India, the rupee. It is the favorite of the pachyderm staff.
Russell – Almost self-explanatory, this name is a tip of the cap to Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook.
Garjan – The Hindi word for Thunder.
The naming process began before the rhino was born. The pachyderm staff kept a board in its office for staff to offer suggestions. The three names presented to the public are the narrowed down results of that in-house suggestion period. The process kicked into high gear when the baby was born.
“That night he was born it was a lot of fun listening to the staff going back and forth on the narrowing of the names,” Oklahoma City Zoo Marketing Director Tara Henson said. “Everyone was giddy about not only the birth but deciding what he would be named.”
Pachyderm supervisor Nick Newby said the staff takes the naming process seriously. The names actually can play a role in the animal’s training.
“The name is really important to the staff,” he said. “We’re the ones who work with these animals on a daily basis so the name is part of the routine.”
But do the animals respond to their names?
“They absolutely know their names,” curator Laura Bottaro said. “Names are important in training and to see an animal learn their name is really cool.”
Henson said the public isn’t shy about offering suggestions. One humorous suggestion received so far was rhinoplasty, a common term for a plastic surgery procedure on the nose.
“People will always offer up their own ideas and some of them can be pretty funny,” Henson said. “I think it shows how connected the community is with the zoo. They follow these animals throughout their lives.”
Though Rupert is the staff favorite, Newby said all three choices are good.
“As a staff we put those three out there that we liked so we won’t be disappointed no matter how it comes out,” Newby said.