A zoo that caused a furor by naming a baby monkey after Britain’s newborn Princess Charlotte has been told to stick to its guns by the local mayor after two days of fraught debate.
The Takasakiyama Natural Zoological Garden in Oita was flooded with complaints after announcing Wednesday that the public had voted for a newborn macaque to be called Charlotte, just days after Britain’s royal family named its newest member.
With the story making headlines around the world on Thursday, the zoo offered an apology for any offense caused to the daughter of Prince William and his wife, Kate.
More than 500 people got in touch with the monkey park over two days to voice an opinion on the name, with early correspondents urging them to drop it.
“Initially opinions were mostly complaints saying it is disrespectful to the British people, then voices supporting the name began to increase, with some saying it was OK because the baby monkey is cute,” an official in Oita said.
As the controversy raged online, on television and in the newspapers, local officials even sought the opinion of the British Embassy in Tokyo — which offered no comment — before Oita Mayor Kiichiro Sato ended the confusion with a definitive ruling.
“I think the public gave it the very pretty name Charlotte, and I don’t think there is any problem with it, so we’ll go with Charlotte,” Sato told reporters.
Japanese society places great emphasis on not offending anybody in an effort to maintain wa or harmony. This frequently results in the kind of decision-making paralysis — two days of debate — witnessed there.
The zoo asks for suggestions for the name of the first macaque born every year.
This year’s poll, in which 853 votes were recorded, saw a sudden surge of people suggesting “Charlotte” after the British princess was named earlier this week.
Complainants said it was disrespectful to name a monkey after a foreign royal, with some suggesting that Japanese people would be offended if a British zoo used the name of a member of Japan’s Imperial family for one of its animals.
But commentators on the websites of major British newspapers suggested local residents were made of sterner stuff.
It is not the first time an animal has been named after the offspring of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge: During a royal tour of Australia last year, a months-old baby Prince George visited Sydney’s Taronga Zoo to meet one of its bilbies — a kind of marsupial — that had been named in his honor.