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Why we called our new baby Nigel

PUBLISHED 20/01/23

Drusillas' efforts to save endangered species and endangered names

Nigel might not be the first name that jumps to mind when naming a baby monkey, but Drusillas have an excellent reason for choosing it for their newest arrival.

Drusillas Park is broadening its conservation efforts in an unusual way - by not only working to save critically endangered species, but simultaneously trying to save ‘endangered’ baby names!

The Zoo have announced the safe and healthy birth of a critically endangered cotton-top tamarin monkey born on 17th December 2022 - fantastic news for the survival of one of the most threatened species of primates in the world. They have since decided to give the adorable infant the rather unusual moniker, Nigel, after zookeepers saw the name on a list of ‘critically endangered’ names.

News of Nigel's naming hit many headlines this week, from BBC and ITV, as far afield as Australia, and even special mentions from Zoe Ball and his namesake Nigel Farage!

At the end of each year, the baby names that fall out of favour with new parents and receive no registrations are announced, and as a result there is a growing list of names that are at risk of becoming ‘extinct’ in the UK.

Head keeper Gemma Romanis spoke about the choice: “Tying in our endangered species conservation with endangered names was an idea that came to me around the time baby was born, when I saw an article about the least popular baby names of the year. It made me feel a little sad that these names are disappearing, and I thought it could be a fun tradition to give our most endangered animals names that no one chooses anymore.”


Gemma continued: “It also becomes an entertaining way to raise awareness of the threats many of our species’ face in the wild, the more people talking about conservation the better, and it points more people to the amazing work that zoos across the country do to ensure the future survival of the world’s most threatened animals. Plus, I love the idea of some of our animals having quite traditional human names like Nigel, Bill, Carol, or Deidre, which were others on the list.”

Nigel was born on 17th December at Drusillas Zoo Park, and keepers are delighted to confirm the cute babe is presenting as happy, healthy, curious, and cheeky. Recent visitors to the park have enjoyed spotting the tiny infant clinging to mum Florencia’s back as she proudly shows off her new arrival.

Mother to the new baby, 15-year-old Florencia, came to Drusillas in 2016 from Beale Park and has given birth an impressive eight times now with her mate, 12-year-old Pasto. Nigel is now settling in with Florencia and Pasto’s nine other offspring. Pasto is heralded by the team as ‘an amazing dad’ who always takes his turn holding baby and gives mum lots of rest time.

One of the most threatened species of primates in the world, it is estimated there are less than 6,000 cotton-tops remaining in the wild, which makes the healthy arrival of this babe a huge success for the conservation of the species. Native to Colombian rainforests, cotton-tops are known for their spectacular crest of white hair, often likened to ‘mad professor’ characters.

Gemma continued: “As well as being totally adorable, the cause for celebration is that much more when we successfully breed a critically endangered species at Drusillas. Cotton-tops are under threat of extinction in the wild due to extensive deforestation and the illegal pet trade, so the healthy arrival of Nigel provides a small but crucial boost for the population, and we’re really proud to play our part in the future survival of this beautiful primate.”

Many of the animals at Drusillas are involved in breeding programmes, monitored by studbook keepers. Primates are a particular cause for concern due to the threat of extinction in the wild. Drusillas is proud to be doing their part to safeguard the species and ensure that these amazing monkeys do not become extinct. 

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