The people voted. And voted, and voted! In the end there were over 12,400 votes cast via text and the internet. Winning by a huge margin, “crush”ing all the other names is….Samson. Samson is a name meaning ‘of the sun.’ In the Bible, Samson is a Herculean figure, who uses tremendous strength to combat his enemies and perform heroic feats unachievable by ordinary men.
“Samson is really a great name for an elephant,” stated Mike McClure, general curator and elephant manager at the Zoo. “Right now, he is more like a Sammy, but as he matures he will certainly grow into his new name.” Born on March 19, 2008, weighing 285 pounds, Samson is a healthy active calf who is gaining 2 ½ pounds a day. “At this rate, he is going to be a big boy by the time he grows up,” continued McClure.
The Maryland Zoo has a long history of exhibiting and caring for elephants. While the Zoo was created by an Act of the Maryland General Assembly in 1876, the Zoo didn’t have an elephant for many years. The Zoo opened its first elephant house in the 1920s and its first resident was an Asian elephant named Mary Anne. She was purchased with monies collected by Baltimore City school children. In 1985, the Zoo opened a new and greatly expanded elephant facility in its African Journey section. While designed to offer more space and improved housing for the elephants, this new exhibit and barn also were designed with vision and intent to be utilized as a breeding facility. Two of the Zoo’s current African elephant residents, Anna and Dolly, moved into the new barn and have led the way into the progressive elephant program that the Zoo has today. They were joined in December of 2007 by Tuffy and a pregnant Felix, who arrived to the Zoo from a sanctuary in Arkansas.
Adding a new chapter to the Zoo’s history with elephants is the birth of an elephant here at the Zoo, and now the public debut of Samson with his mother Felix today. “Having the first African elephant born at our own Maryland Zoo is an exciting moment for the State,” said First Lady Katie O’Malley. “The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore provides a wonderful interactive learning center for kids and adults alike and helps connect our children with their natural environment. I welcome the new addition to the Zoo’s family and am excited to learn more about him.”
Maryland’s First Lady was actively involved in the name selection prior to the public vote, along with Mayor Sheila Dixon, Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith and Zoo Crew kids at The Stadium School, The Jemicy School and Mount View Middle School.
Reproduction is one of the most basic and vital components of all animals’ lives and this successful elephant birth has given the Zoo a multi-generational herd. “Having a healthy elephant calf like Samson not only benefits the elephants, but will also provide Zoo guests with new, exciting opportunities to learn about African elephants and why it is important to continue conservation efforts on their behalf,” stated Don Hutchinson, president and CEO of the Zoo. “We are thrilled that so many people took the time and effort to submit possible names for the elephant, and then vote for their favorite. The people have made a great choice.”
“This is a historic occasion for Maryland and a perfect cause for celebration,” said Governor O’Malley. “I want to congratulate the staff for their hard work in continuing to make the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore a statewide asset. The Zoo plays an important educational role for Maryland families, and, on behalf of the State of Maryland, I invite all Marylanders to meet the new addition and learn much more about African elephants and the 1,500 other birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles that live here.”