What’s in a name? So many things.

Recently Chahinkapa Zoo had “cat scratch fever” as a naming contest for our two female cheetahs turned into a most active event. We wanted to include the public to share in this important procedure.

Naming animals is something we CZ keepers have done for decades. For record keeping sake, each zoo resident also has an identification code called an acquisition number. But a “house” name is also very beneficial to both the animal and staff. It is much easier to refer to an animal by name than number, but most importantly animals respond to their name much like you and I do. It is a personal identifying feature.

Naming is also necessary when telling each of their stories to caring visitors when educating about local, regional, and global conservation.

Once the Cheetah Naming Contest was announced, our Facebook was inundated with over 150 entries. Families also submitted their choices in person at the zoo, via phone calls and emails.

Sorting through the numerous names was very enjoyable and many brought giggles from our crew. Next, they were narrowed down and we submitted a list of 15 pairs of names to objective judges. The final three pairs were chosen.

Two of the top three pairs were of African origin, like the species itself, and one pair submitted with native Sioux origin. People could vote by making a donation of any size from coins to credit cards.

Drum roll ... the winning names are Chika and Nya, submitted by Patty Moyer, San Diego, California. Second place are Thembi and Thando, submitted by Mariana Cockburn of Wahpeton. Neither of these ladies are strangers to Chahinkapa Zoo as both are animal sponsors and care deeply about zoo operations. Through their efforts and much to our delight contributions came from near and far.

Thank you to donors in North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota, Oregon, Texas, Colorado, and San Diego, California. Every cent was counted and we were thrilled that the contest raised nearly $6,000 for cheetah care at Chahinkapa Zoo. Our many thanks to the participants and everyone who has visited and plans to visit this summer to meet our newest residents Chika and Nya!

In Conservation,

Kathy Diekman is director of Chahinkapa Zoo, Wahpeton

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