Name for the Granddaughter of Famous Moja

Photo By: Miroslav Bobek

Today, on Saturday, February 10, we published the name of the gorilla female, born in Prague Zoo at the very beginning of this year. Sure, I will write it at the end of this text, but first about selecting the name. In fact, this time we proceeded in a completely unconventional way. We asked the children from Cameroonian town Somalomo, where our educational project Wandering bus is based, for a basic set of proposals. Then in the zoo we selected ten names from this set and in the end the Czech public decided.

We received a total of 67 suggested names from Somalomo. The truth is that they didn’t come only from children, as we had originally imagined, but the other part of the assignment, namely that the suggestions would be in the local Badwe’e dialect of the Koonzime language, had already been fulfilled. After all, in this dialect our gorilla fairy tales with the main character Moja, the grandmother of the recently born baby, were published as the very first bound book.

When reading the suggestions coming from the edge of the Dja Biosphere Reserve I realized that it was quite an impressive insight into the local perception of the world. The very first name, Koh’Eloo’h, caught my attention. I even pushed it through to the first ten; it had no chance to win, but it carried a remarkable message. Koh’Eloo’h is a “transitional liana” symbolizing crossing a river, separating the hostile world, from which people are fleeing, from the new world, where people settle permanently… In contrast, the proposal Nzing quite surprised me at the first moment. It means the tin roof of a house. But then I realized that living under a tin roof is in the Dja area a symbol of prosperity, and the name Nzing either refers to the gorilla house or is supposed to help its wearer to reach a higher standard of living.

A total of 44,601 people voted on in the first round for the ten suggestions which we selected. They sent three names to the final “shootout”:

  1. Mobi, which means “heiress” (or also “successor”). It was proposed by the twenty-year-old high school student in Somalomo Philone Mamkobene.
  2. Ekiba, meaning “thanks” submitted by the eleven-year-old Somalomo grammar school student Paméla Imelda Meva’a Ndoum.
  3. Mosâmom, the name with probably the strongest drive, meaning “the one, whose birth means end of the war between people and animals”. This mane originates from the wise chief of Somalomo township, 82 year old Georges Benjamin Mampomo.

29,981 people then decided between Mobi, Ekiba and Mosâmom. And I dare say they made a very good decision – although any of the three last options would be very good choice. However, the winner is Mobi!

By Miroslav Bobek, Director of Prague Zoo