Syracuse zoo announces winners of snow leopard naming contest

The Rosamond Gifford Zoo announced today the winners in the zoo's snow leopard naming contest.

Julianna Buchmann, a 10-year-old from Weedsport, submitted the name Bajen. She says her mom told her about the competition and looked up Russian baby boy names on Google to find a good name for the cubs.

"I chose Bajen because it is a Russian boy's name that means 'long waited,'" she wrote on her entry form. "Since it has been 14 years since a baby snow leopard has been born at the zoo, I think this beautiful snow leopard is indeed 'long waited.'"

Karen Dunford of Nedrow has two sons of her own and submitted the name Ramil, which is a name from Uzbekistan where snow leopards live. Dunford says she did some research on snow leopards. When her four nieces came to visit, she showed a few names to the family and everyone voted on the name they liked.

"I can't believe it was selected," Dunford said about her name being chosen for one of the snow leopard cubs. "Not in a million years would I have thought that."

There were 563 pairs of names submitted, which were narrowed to 5 final pairs by judges. Bajen and Ramil received more than 36 percent of the votes.

The brothers were born to parents Zena and Senge on June 14. Ted Fox, the zoo's Director, says this naming contest was exciting for the people participating and for the zoo itself.

"We know the lineage of all the animals at the zoo. We know where they've been, we know where they came from," he said. "It's always really cool to follow them through their lives."