Thursday, August 11, 2011

Zoos are Naming Animals After Athletes

In the June 27, 2011, ESPN magazine was an article by Laura Downhour that told a wonderful tale about zoos in the United States.

Downhour opens up the article with a ditty about how San Francisco Zoo renamed a hippo Brian Wilson to celebrate the World Series win.  More importantly she discovered this wasn't the only zoo to do such a thing.

Here are some excerpts:

Brian Wilson/The Hippopotamus/San Francisco Zoo
"Hippos are extremely dangerous, responsible for more human deaths in Africa than any other animal. If someone comes into their territory, they're going to get them out of there." - Jim Nappi, curator of the hoofstock.

Tressel the Humboldt Penguin/Columbus Zoo and Aquarium
"Tressel is sometimes a bit jumpy and is often suspicious of strangers.  She's also a picky eater who always stays 'til the end of the feeding session to get all the smallest fish in the bucket." Carrie Pratt, assistant curator

Favre the Sinaloan Milk Snake/Houston Zoo
"We had a keeper from Wisconsin who was a big Green Bay fan.  When the milk snake arrived in 1999 he made quite a thing about naming it Favre.  Wisconsin being the dairy state, it kind made sense."  -Brian Hill, director of public affairs

Sidney the Sea Lion/North Carolina Zoo
"As a pup we had her at the Pittsburgh Zoo and she was a star.  Sometimes, she used her flipper to hit a ball, almost like a slap shot.  It was a behavior she picked up on her own." -Henry Kocprzyk, Pittsburgh zookeeper

Larry Bird the African Gray Parrot/ Houston Zoo
"Their favorite defense mechanism is biting and they fluff up their feathers to look larger. I doubt the real Larry Bird ever bit a ref, but I bet there were times he got really puffed up about a bad call." - Brian Hill, director of public affairs

Lincecum the Howler Monkey/ San Francisco Zoo
"She has the best personality of all the monkeys and enjoys being the center of attention.  Kind of like how pitchers are the center of attention in a game." - Corrine MacDonald, curator of primates and carnivores

(thank you Laura Downhour for that delightful article. Sometimes we need to step away from the long 162-game season.)

Kevin J. Marquez