Despite the animosity between the governments of Israel and Iran, the two peoples are coming together in an effort to find a suitable name for a rare Persian leopard who recently arrived at the Ramat Gan Safari park outside Tel Aviv.
Dr. Thamar Eilam Gindin, an Israeli researcher on Iran from the Shalem Academic College, posted a request in Persian on Facebook and Twitter last month asking for suggestions of a Persian name for the park’s newest arrival, a year-old endangered leopard.
“A new neighbor has arrived, a Persian leopard,” Gindin wrote in her post. “Iranian friends, please suggest Persian names along with explanations for the new leopard.”
Soon, the posts went viral, and suggestions began to flow in from Iranians living in the diaspora as well as from Iran.
The endangered cat was placed at the Ramat Gan Safari last month as part of a global Persian leopard-breeding program. The Israeli park is one of 44 zoos worldwide that are trying to increase the Persian leopard population so they can ultimately be re-introduced into the wild.
As of the weekend, the most popular name suggestions were: Rustam, a celebrated legendary Persian warrior who wore a leopard skin cloak, Cyrus, the 7th century BCE Persian emperor, who let the Jews return to Israel from the Babylonian exile and Omid, which means “hope” in Persian.
Safari zoologist Keren Or told the Ynet news site that choosing a name for the animals that retained a link to their native origins is a common practice at the safari park.
“Giving an authentic name that correlates to the animal’s origins is essential to close the circle,” Or said. “Since animals in the zoo are ambassadors for their brothers in nature, and among other things, tell their story.”
The top six names will be put to Israelis in an online vote in the coming days.