After turning over the naming rights of its baby zebra to its social media following, the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory announced on Tuesday, June 18, that the female zebra will be named Lydia.
The name Lydia was championed by family and friends of 2014 New Richmond High School graduate Lydia Kimlinger (formerly Lydia Armbruster), who was diagnosed with High Grade Neuroendocrine Carcinoma in April 2018.
"I feel so grateful and blessed for all the votes and it means so much to me," said Kimlinger.
The symbol for Neuroendocrine Carcinoma is zebra print and the zebra is a mascot for those diagnosed with the rare cancer.
"I want to thank the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory and all those that voted for 'Lydia.' I feel this is part of Lydia's legacy. Lydia has always been devoted to animals. She was studying ecology/biology in college and wanted to pursue a career in animal behavior/research or something similar," said Lydia's mother, Mary Kimlinger Armbruster. "I hope that this honor will bring awareness to Lydia's rare cancer and maybe even ignite additional support for neuroendocrine cancer funding and the drive for a cure."
The naming contest came down to four names, including: Lydia, Claire, Elsie and Nia. According to Como Zoo's website, there were nearly 6,000 votes cast during the contest. Lydia came in with 36% of the votes, Nia came in at 34% of the votes, Elsie with 20% of the votes and Claire with 10% of the votes.
"I'm incredibly overwhelmed with how our family, friends, and community members came together to make this happen. This is such a special thing not only for Lydia and her family, but also for all individuals battling Neuroendocrine Carcinoma," said Serena Randolph, a close friend of Lydia's. "This is one small step, but it's a step in the right direction for raising awareness. Plus, I've been told that the baby zebra is quite brave and spunky, which are definitely two words I'd use to describe our Lydia, which makes the whole situation even more perfect."
Como's current herd now consists of Ulysses, Minnie, Thelma and Lydia, who was born to Minnie on May 30. Ulysses sired the foal. According to Randolph, neuroendocrine (NET) cancers are associated with the zebra because, in medicine, the term "zebra" is used in reference to a rare disease or condition.
"Medical students are taught to assume that the simplest explanation is usually the best, i.e., it is usually correct to look for common rather than exotic causes for disease. Doctors learn to expect common conditions, hence the phrase: 'If you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras,'" Randolph said in a recent Facebook post about the naming contest. "But zebras do exist, and the unlikely can and does sometimes occur ... 'When you hear hoofbeats, sometimes it's a zebra.'"
According to the Como Zoo website, the gestation period for zebras ranges from 10 to 12 months. A newborn zebra's stripes will turn from brown to black sometime between the first nine to 18 months of life. Como is home to Grant's Zebras, which are commonly found in the grassy plains of eastern Africa including the countries of Kenya and Ethiopia.
"Lydia continues to meet the challenges of neuroendocrine carcinoma. Her loving and humorous spirit continues to break through, She is the strongest person I know and I am proud to be her Mom," said Kimlinger Armbruster.
Lydia's cancer originated in her pancreas and is aggressive. According to Kimlinger Armbruster, Lydia has been treated with multiple chemotherapy medications and received radiation for the tumors in her bones. When it comes to explaining Lydia's type of cancer, Kimlinger Armbruster turns to an explanation given to her by Susan Meckler Sylvan, the 2018 Monica Warner Award winner.
"Susan has been a pillar of support and I feel she explains this cancer best: 'A Neuroendocrine Tumor (NET) is a rare cancer type that forms in neuroendocrine cells. These cells can be found in any organ in the body that secrete hormones. Think pancreas, thyroid, lungs, kidneys, cervix, ovaries, pituitary, prostate, gastrointestinal tract, and skin,'" Kimlinger Armbruster said.