WASHINGTON, D.C., March 23, 2005 – Two of the National Zoo’s four new cheetah cubs have been given names thanks to people across the country who cast more than 13,000 votes in a naming contest hosted by Friends of the National Zoo (FONZ), the Zoo’s non-profit support organization. The winning names are Askari (pronounced “ah-SCAR-ee”; Swahili for “guard” or “watchman”) for the male cub and Imara (pronounced “i-MAR-ah”; Swahili for “strong” or “strength”) for the female cub.
Nine-year-old Melissa Hannahan of Mobile, Ala., was randomly selected to receive a behind-the-scenes tour of the Zoo’s Cheetah Conservation Station from among more than 11,000 voters who submitted their email addresses. Hannahan, who voted along with her school classmates, will get a tour of the cheetah-exhibit facilities and a rare opportunity for an up-close view of the four-month-old cubs and their mother behind the scenes. She will also receive a special cheetah gift package.
The four cheetah cubs, two males and two females, were born at the Zoo four months ago today on November 23. They are the first cubs of this endangered species to be born at the Zoo in its 115-year history. FONZ hosted the contest to name two of the cubs in celebration of the cubs’ official public debut. Members of the public were invited to vote for their favorite names of six selected by the Zoo’s cheetah keepers by logging on to the Zoo/FONZ website at www.fonz.org/cheetahcontest.htm. The month-long contest ended on March 17.
The names of the two other cubs, Damara (an ethnic group of Namibia) for the male and Hatima (Swahili for “finally”) for the female, were chosen by Zoo keepers.
Contest participants were also encouraged to make donations to support the National Zoo’s cheetah conservation program. Voters donated more than $3,000 to support the creation of a new cheetah breeding and research facility. The Zoo is planning the new facility to expand this conservation program and to accommodate its increasing cheetah population. FONZ is still accepting donations to the program online at www.fonz.org or by phone at (202) 633-3034.