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As a Name, ‘Ramses’ Rules

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Asked to name a new baby camel at the Moorpark College zoo, Ventura County schoolkids let their imaginations run wild:

“Einstein.” “Big Guy.” “Beautiful Heart.” “Sweetie.”

And the ever-popular “Humphrey.”

More than 750 elementary school students entered a contest sponsored by the Ventura County Edition of The Times and America’s Teaching Zoo at Moorpark College to name the male camel born March 7 to a dromedary named LuLu.

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And the winner is . . . “Ramses,” a name suggested by Lauren Glass, 10, of Camarillo. Lauren, a fifth-grader at St. Mary Magdalen School in Camarillo, chose the name because “Ramses was a great and well-loved Egyptian ruler who had 156 children. Maybe this is a sign for a strong and healthy breeding program.”

Entries were judged by Times Ventura County Editor Bill Overend, Moorpark College history and humanities professor Gerald R. Fecht and Gary Wilson, director of the college’s exotic animal training and management program.

The Times will give $500 in Lauren’s name--to be commemorated on a plaque at the zoo--to support camels at Moorpark College. Lauren and the runners-up will receive zoo T-shirts and free family admission to the zoo.

“We want to congratulate all of the kids who entered this contest,” Overend said. “They obviously put their hearts and their best work into it. The judges had a hard time picking the winners because there were so many cute names and drawings.”

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Many students entered the contest as part of class projects.

“It was great, it was so much fun,” said Ann Oppenheim, a third-grade teacher at Ladera Elementary School in Thousand Oaks. “The kids got real excited . . . . It gives them a springboard to learn about doing research.”

In addition to suggesting names for the baby camel, students were asked to explain their choice and draw a picture of the camel.

Winner Lauren supplied not only a drawing, but a carefully crafted three-dimensional model out of fur and foam rubber.

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The judges also chose a pair of runners-up in each of two age categories--children up to 8 years old and 9 years and older. They were:

* Mallory Carlson, 10, of Las Colinas School in Camarillo: “Einstein.”

* Matt Morrissette, 10, of St. Mary Magdalen School in Camarillo: “Pat,” in honor of the camel’s birth 10 days before St. Patrick’s Day.

* Kevin Conahey, 6, of Meiners Oaks Elementary School in Ojai: “Roy,” which he described as a “cool and casual name.”

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* Jessica Shipp, 8, of Red Oak Elementary in Oak Park: “Cozie.”

The baby camel’s long legs, creamy fur and bashful disposition provided inspiration for many students.

Runner-up Jessica, for example, chose her name--a variation on “cozy"--because “he has a loving mother and a nice place to sleep. Also he has a nice long fur to keep him warm in the winter.”

“I think the camel should be named ‘Gingersnap’ because it matches his color,” wrote Lorena Calazzo of Hollow Hills Fundamental School in Simi Valley.

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“I think the name should be ‘Stretchers’ because he has such a long neck,” wrote Jake Snyder, 6, of First Baptist Day School in Ventura.

“The camel’s long legs reminded me of crickets,” wrote Kelly Mead, 11, of Westlake Hills School in Westlake Village, duly dubbing the camel “Cricket.”

And Kyle Quiroz, 7, of Atherwood School in Simi Valley, chose “Shilo” in part “because he is shy.”

Many students were fascinated with the camel’s signature hump. Many suggested “Humphrey"--some citing a Beanie Baby camel by that name--or variations on it.

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“My name is ‘Humphrey’ because I have a hump on my back,” read the caption below Rebecca Lynn Ruebsamen’s picture of a camel striding through sand dunes. Rebecca, 8, attends Poinsettia Elementary School in Ventura.

A few chose names reminiscent of Africa, the camel’s native land.

Whitney and Margan Melhorn, both 11 and students at Cornerstone Christian School in Camarillo, offered several such choices, including “Oasis,” “Niles,” “Pharaoh” and “Aswan.” Margan, a camel fan since he was 3, said his favorite name was “Tuttle"--or “Tut” for short.

Colleen Burns, 11, of Vista Fundamental School in Simi Valley, suggested “Chioke,” a Nigerian word meaning “gift of God.” Her classmate Will Thompson favored “Scimitar,” a curved sword “used by Arabs who might have ridden camels.”

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Other students drew on flights of fancy that had little to do with camels.

“ ‘Clinton’ the camel is a good name because maybe some day this baby will grow up to be the president of all camels,” suggested Hayley Duquette, 6, of Katherine Elementary School in Simi Valley.

“I think his name should be “Kalamazoo” [or] “Camel-a-zoo” because it is a camel in the zoo,” wrote Layne Woollard, 7, of Madera School in Simi Valley.

“I think the baby camel’s name should be ‘Jewel,’ ” wrote Cierra Kelly, 8, of Vista Fundamental School in Simi Valley. “Because jewels are valuable. And the camel is also valuable. He will help the students learn about camels.”

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Lauren Ziegeler, 10, of Thelma B. Bedell School in Santa Paula, nominated “El Nino.” The camel “was born in El Nino season and in Spanish ‘El Nino’ means baby,” Lauren noted.

Many students chose names of friends, or even their own name.

“My name for the camel is Andrew,” wrote Hayley Kelsch, 11, of Montessori School of Ojai. “My brother’s name is Andrew, and he’ll thank me and be proud to have a camel named for him.”

Sammy Gabler, 8, of Atherwood School in Simi Valley, noted that “It’s a Jewish custom to name babies after family who have died. I would like to name the camel Phillip after my great-grandfather Phillip.”

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Andrew Adams, 6, of Campus Canyon School in Moorpark, was one of many students who did some research before making their choices.

“I went on the Internet and looked up Africa,” he wrote. “There is a country named Chad which has dromedary camels. Chad sounds like a baby camel!”


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