Officials from the Hattiesburg Zoo are asking the public for its help with naming its two newest additions: two juvenile plains zebras that just recently arrived at the zoo’s African Veldt exhibit.
Participants can choose from one of three African names for each of the two zebras – one male and one female – which are featured on the zoo’s Facebook page.
“It’s a way to engage with the public, and there’s so many people that have an ownership of the zoo and a real connection with it,” said Rick Taylor, executive director of the Hattiesburg Convention Commission, which runs the zoo. “We want to steer them a little bit, keep it in the realm of African names that have certain meanings.
“But we wanted to let the public have a role to play in it, and help us pick their names. Hopefully, if we have some zebra babies, then we’ll certainly come back and do this again to give the public – who supported the zoo and continue to support the zoo – a little stake in it.”
Anyone wishing to participate in the process can visit the zoo’s Facebook page, where a picture of each zebra is displayed with three possible names. The possible names for the female are Nyaka (girl), Tasia (resurrection) and Aroha (love), while the name choices for the male are Bakari (promising), Jengo (building) and Zebadia (gift of God).
To choose a name, voters can simply click on the picture of each zebra and enter their choice in the comments of that picture. Taylor said the endeavor has already had a good turnout, as did the times where the public helped to name the zoo’s sloths, wallabies, goats and sheep.
“I don’t know what it is – any time there’s a naming of an animal at the zoo, we usually have a good response, and this case is no exception,” he said. “Especially now, folks are still a bit at home (because of COVID-19), so they’re paying a lot of attention to our online presence.
“And if they vote (for the winning name), they can claim that they helped name those zebras. Sometimes the animals come to us with existing names … but where possible, especially if it’s an animal born at the zoo, we want the public involved with that. It’s Hattiesburg’s zoo – it’s not just ours – and as a result of that, we want them to have a stake in it.”
Taylor said because the new zebras are juveniles, guests might notice a little more pep in their step than usual.
“Our (current) zebras are a little older, and they’re wonderful zebras,” he said. “But when you see these up close, you realize they’re young, they’re juveniles.
“They’re just a lot more frisky and a little more motivated, like all young folks are. It’s kind of fun to see them with that energy, so I know the public is going to enjoy it once they get out of their quarantine and get out on the veldt.”
Taylor said zoo officials are trying to increase the number of animals at the African Veldt, an endeavor the two new zebras may be able to help with.
“The female has had three, maybe four foals already, so we think that we should be able to have some babies,” he said. “We don’t know how soon, but we definitely are looking forward to increasing the population out on that veldt – not only with them, but through kind of natural occurrences.
“Because we already have plains zebras, we have to be real careful that we don’t create hybridization, so these are both plains zebras as well.”