Get Your Vote On: Naming the Andean Bear Cubs

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If you thought your days of naming animals were over, think again.

The National Zoo is asking for the public's help in naming more of its baby animals. And this time it needs two names: one for each of its twin Andean bear cubs.

The cubs, who were born in January and made their first expedition out of the den last week, are finally ready to make their public debut on May 22, zoo officials say. But it certainly wouldn't be a proper debut if they didn't have proper names.

The bears' keepers, representatives from the embassies of Peru and Venezuela (where the bears are found) and visitors have chosen a list of four possible names for each of the cubs. The public should vote for one from each list:

For the male:

  • Atiq, which means "winner," in Quechua, the language of the bears' native Andes region. The birth of these cubs is a "win" or great achievement for the species because they are so endangered, zoo officials say.
  • Bernardo, a Spanish name that means "brave like a bear"—a fitting description for the zoo's tough, little male cub.
  • Churun is a popular Venezuelan name, and also the name of a river ("Río Churún") that feeds into the country's Angel Falls—the world's tallest single-drop waterfall at 3,212 feet.
  • Juco, a native Quechuan name that would be a tribute to the bear's heritage, zoo officials say.

And for the female:

  • Caridad, meaning "charity" and "kindness" in Spanish. (And for some reason, it always reminds me of the word charming, which the young lady cub certainly is.)
  • Chaska, a Quechuan name from Peru that is also the name of the dawn star.
  • Paqarina, meaning "dawn, daybreak" and "a new opportunity to live" in the Quechua language—significant because the cubs' birth alone offers a chance for their species to survive.
  • Roraima, the name of the Amazon mountain that marks the border of Venezuela, Brazil and Guyana that is also a popular Venezuelan name.

Polls will be open until May 17 and the winning names will be announced on Facebook and Twitter on May 19. Those who retweet the Zoo's announcement about the poll on Twitter will be entered in a drawing to tour the Andean bear facilities and meet their keepers.

Get voting. And since I correctly predicted the name for the zoo's octopus (Octavius), here are my own choices: Juco (it's catchy) and Chaska (because once she's out for everyone to see, it won't be long before she and her brother are some of the zoo's biggest stars.)

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