EDITOR'S NOTE: This version clarifies that "Lucas" is the name choice of zoo keepers.
One of Nicholas Allore’s greatest desires was to go to the Toledo Zoo and see the new baby elephant.
The 6-year-old got his wish — he saw the baby pachyderm during a field trip there with his Smith Road Elementary kindergarten class on Thursday. Shortly after seeing the 300-pound elephant, Nicholas collapsed and later died.
“He loved the elephant,” Nicholas’s aunt, Denise Nash, said Monday of her nephew, who died of an undetected heart condition. “That’s all he talked about was getting to see this baby elephant.”
The baby calf — born late June 3 to 32-year-old African elephant Renee — needs a name.
And according to an ever-growing segment of the community, that name should be Nicholas or “Nick” to honor the boy.
Since Sunday evening, fans have flooded its Facebook page, petitioning for the baby elephant to have that name.
“We are in full support of it,” Ms. Nash said. “Nicholas wanted to see that elephant in the worst way. We’re 100 percent for it.”
Zoo officials haven’t made a decision yet on the request. They released a statement late Monday saying, “The zoo family is profoundly saddened by the death of Nicholas and our heart goes out to his family. This is an unusual circumstance and we want to give it the proper attention and respect. The zoo family is working together to come up with a fitting tribute to Nicholas.”
The zoo said they will “share more information with the community at the appropriate time.”
The Toledo Zoo is already hosting a “Name the Baby Elephant” contest, which started Monday.
Three names, picked by animal keepers, will be voted on by the public: Lucas, which would “[honor] Lucas County voters’ long-time support of the zoo, and the keepers’ choice”; Chuck, named for the first animal donated to the zoo in 1900, a woodchuck; and Iain, after the African elephant conservationist, Iain Douglas-Hamilton.
Friends, family, and others in the community say naming the elephant after Nicholas would not only honor his family, but be an appropriate tribute to a boy whose favorite place to be was the zoo.
“Even though we are sad he passed, it makes us smile that he was in a place he loved,” said Kourtney Hohlbein, a cousin of the boy, whom medical officials said died of a heart condition.
Nicholas’ cousins first proposed the idea to name the elephant Nicholas by calling the zoo and posting on the page, Ms. Hohlbein said.
The cousins also reached out for support from the community, and the reaction has been “tremendous,” Ms. Hohlbein said, referring to the Facebook campaign.
“If we could get the elephant named after him, it would carry on his name and memory,” she said.
Because “Nicholas” is currently not an option on the zoo’s Web site, community members are using Facebook instead as an outlet for votes.
The phrase “I vote for Nicholas!” is trending on the zoo’s page, and with each minute, more community members cast their virtual ballots.
Voting can be done online at toledozoo.org/babyname, at the zoo’s North Star Trading Post gift shop, or by mail — an official ballot can be found in The Blade.
Entries are due by 11:59 a.m. June 27. The calf’s name will be announced on June 30.
From the winning elephant name entries, the zoo will draw a prizewinner who will receive a one-year family membership to the zoo, enrollment in the zoo’s elephant ZooPAL program, and many other “ele-fun” gifts.
The public can see Renee and her calf from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, although the hours could be irregular, dependent on weather and the well-being of both animals, according to the zoo’s Web site.
If Renee and her calf are off exhibit, the zoo’s other elephants, Louie and Twiggy, might be available for viewing during regular zoo hours.
Contact Sara Felsenstein at: email@example.com or 419-724-6050.