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Largest Zoo in the U.K. Names New Baby Elephant with Royal Connection After Queen Elizabeth

Largest Zoo in the U.K. Names New Baby Elephant with Royal Connection After Queen Elizabeth

A baby elephant received a royal-inspired name following her birth.

On Monday, ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, the United Kingdom's largest zoo, announced in a release the name of their new Asian elephant calf, born on August 22. The zoo gave the baby animal the name Nang Phaya (pronounced 'nang-pie-yah'). According to the zoo, the name is "an animal-related Thai word meaning queen, or strong, female monarch."

The zoo added that the little elephant's name is a tribute to zoo patron Queen Elizabeth II, who previously met the mother of the calf, Donna.

The late monarch, who died on September 8 at 96, met Donna when she opened the ZSL Whipsnade Zoo's Centre for Elephant Care in 2017. Queen Elizabeth fed Donna a banana at the facility's opening, and pictures from the snack session went on to be featured on the Queen's official Christmas card for 2017.

Queen Elizabeth became a patron of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), which operates the ZSL Whipsnade Zoo, in 1953, the year of her coronation, per ZSL.

"When we saw photos of the adorable elephant calf, we fell in love instantly and were so delighted to be asked to name her. We wanted a name that represented who she is as a future matriarch of the Whipsnade herd, but also her part in the wider story of endangered Asian elephants, like those we work to protect in Thailand," ZSL's elephant project officer, Saravanee Namsupak, said in an official statement.

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baby Asian elephant
baby Asian elephant

"Naming her Nang Phaya, which is a Thai word for queen or matriarch, seemed like the perfect way to pay tribute to HM The Queen for her work as ZSL's patron and honor Donna's famous encounter with her, while symbolically connecting the calf to the herds of Asian elephants in Thailand that are under threat from increasing habitat disturbance and loss which escalates human-elephant conflict and the wellbeing of both elephants and communities," Namsupak added.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh feed bananas to Donna, a 7 year old Asian Elephant, as they open the new Centre for Elephant Care at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh feed bananas to Donna, a 7 year old Asian Elephant, as they open the new Centre for Elephant Care at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo

Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images

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Stefan Groeneveld, the elephant team leader at Nang Phaya's zoo, shared that the baby elephant is already living up to her big name.

"Definitely a leader-in-the-making, Nang Phaya is energetic and playful, climbing on anything and everything and racing around the elephant habitat while her mum Donna, grandma Kaylee and the rest of the herd tries to keep up. Although not on solid food yet, she has been experimenting with using her trunk to pick up twigs and is gradually getting the knack of using it!" Groeneveld said, adding that the calf is growing at a healthy rate.

Along with being a touching tribute to the Queen, Nang Phaya is also important to her species. The Internternational Union for Conservation of Nature lists Asian elephants as endangered, so preserving the species' genetic diversity through accredited zoo breeding programs is helpful to the elephants' survival.

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"Nang Phaya is a really important addition to the endangered species breeding program for Asian elephants, and as the boisterous, youngest female in a matriarchal family line, her new name is perfect," Groeneveld added.

Nang Phaya is not the first animal named to honor Queen Elizabeth since the monarch's death. James Middleton, Kate Middleton's younger brother, named one of his golden retriever puppies Bertie — the sweet family nickname for Queen Elizabeth's father, King George VI, whose first name was Albert — as a way to honor the late Queen.