Don’t go ape: Oita zoo to retain ‘Charlotte’ as monkey’s name despite uproar


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.

“Seriously, who cares? Name the next one George (Charlotte’s elder brother). It’s of zero consequence to any of us,” wrote user Zeeeel on The Guardian’s site.

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.

  • Ron NJ

    So there won’t be any problems when the next monkey born at the Edinburgh Zoo is named Akihito?

  • Jamie Bakeridge

    “Japanese society places great emphasis on not offending anybody in an effort to maintain wa or harmony.”

    I think the residents of Nanjing, or the South Korean comfort women may beg to differ with this statement…!!

    • Fumio Sakuragi

      Good point: The mentioned society cares little about what citizens elsewhere thinks about herself any more, no matter what cantankerous response she gets from her neighbors or US scholars. Just like the majority of the society the local zoo operator, concerned about the bottom line, blatantly and repeatedly asked what the UK embassy thinks of the macaque nomenclature.

      How civilized the embassy officials in Tokyo were to remain silent as church mice! They are not supposed to provide any kind of suggestion, which could be construed as assistance to commercial events, to the asking operator. One wrongful responce would have led to another chain of response. That is the way UK citizens want their servants to behave not squandering time and other resources whose cost taxpayers eventually bear.

      Just imagine what kind of response a zoo operator, wishing to name a newly born creature after a Chrysanthemum family member’s one, would get from the Japanese embassy in London. How uncivilized and wasteful the response would be from the counterpart in London or Scotland! Taxpayers in Japan are docile utterly unaware of how their money will be wasted in their overseas offices: a patriarchal society PM Abe is trying to rebuild by constitutional amendment. [why are they air-headed? Koku-min, people of the state, is also called Kou-min, public people. “Kou-min” used to be referred as property of the state, little different from state slaves, during the period of the 8th to 11th centuries in Japan. History repeats itself.]

      Incidentally it took Japan many years to replace bain turc with soap land despite vociferous pleas from those who felt their dignity was slurred. How shameful the operator was in inciting a raw and acrid taste to attract more visitors!

  • Steve

    I don’t really understand why anyone would want to name a monkey after a baby that hasn’t done anything to warrant our respect anyway.