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Luna’s name shines brightest in competition

The temporary name of the Buffalo Zoo’s polar bear cub who has captured the public’s imagination is going to be permanent.

“Luna” received about 82 percent of the vote, easily besting four other finalist names in a contest that saw 854 people register their votes in a Facebook naming contest. The other names, in order of popularity, were Pearl, Bumble, Hope and Buffy.

Those names had emerged from hundreds of earlier votes.

The fluffy white cub, who now weighs 63 pounds, was moved Wednesday from an exhibit at the front of the zoo to one toward the back that’s inside the Vanishing Animals exhibit. She will continue to be on exhibit for one hour daily, 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., sharing space used by the spectacled bears.

“The exhibit has a pool built into it, and one of the requirements is that she has to have access to a pool. We have to teach her how to swim,” said Rachel Gottlieb, the zoo’s spokeswoman.

The zoo is still waiting for Kali, the orphaned bear cub that is coming from Alaska.

“He should be here in a few weeks. We’re hoping that he will be on exhibit with Luna by June 1,” Gottlieb said.

The fundraising campaign for Luna’s eventual Arctic Edge home continues to progress. The campaign has drawn $900,000 in public and large private donations and government grants since March 1, leaving $3.1 million still to be raised. Among that total are 2,265 individual private donors, who have given $217,000.

Meanwhile, as Luna gets bigger, her trainers have stopped going inside the enclosures with her – both for her own good, Gottlieb said, and the safety of the trainers.

“She’s getting so big, and they’re trying to get Luna used to being a bear and not imprinting so much onto humans,” she said.