Zoo’s baby bear has a name: She’s ‘Alba’

Five months after her birth – a surprise that delighted the community – the bear cub at the Salisbury Zoo has been named.

She will be known as Alba, which received the most votes in the city’s Name the Bear Contest. It narrowly won over Esperanza, an early favorite when The ’bury Bear Project began.

“We’re going to call her Alba,” Mayor Jim Ireton announced Friday afternoon at the zoo, as he flipped a page on a large paper tablet over an easel and pointed to the moniker, printed in dark letters.

Meaning “daybreak,” the name is of Spanish origin, because Alba is an Andean bear, a native of South America. She is the cub of Chaska and Gritto, who both live at the zoo.

Esperanza means “hope.”  Other selections were Sonrisa, meaning “smile;”Jefa, “the boss;” Milagro, “miracle;” Enhorabuena, “congratulations;”  Encantada, “enchanted; and Mariquita, ladybug. Chris Demone, who handles public relations for the mayor’s office, said he didn’t know how many votes the name Alba received.

Ralph Piland, director of the zoo, explained the list of eight names was taken from the model the National Zoo has used for Andean cubs.

Since early June, when the contest started, community members, zoo visitors, and baby bear enthusiasts have been voting for their favorite name on the city’s website.

Meantime, oblivious to the excitement, Alba has been romping and leaping as she grows, and enjoying being the highlight of the zoo since her unexpected birth in January.

Animal-loving residents celebrated the birth, waited for the first glimpse, cheered when her gender was announced and delighted in her antics.

In conjunction with the naming contest is Got Bear?, a photo and coloring competition for children. Pictures that have already been submitted and are posted on the zoo’s Web site. There’s one of feeding time, with the cub scaling a fence, and others of her in a tree. One shot is of Chaska on a high branch above the baby, who is heading toward her.

Alba’s birth will continue to be celebrated throughout the year, and culminate in January 2016 with 1-year-old birthday merriment.

Generally, baby bears stay close to their mothers 18 to 24 months, so if Salisbury’s little one is sent to another zoo to be bred, that’s probably the age she’ll depart.

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