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New Lincoln Children's Zoo giraffe named Phoebe, thanks to Meadow Lane first-grader
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New Lincoln Children's Zoo giraffe named Phoebe, thanks to Meadow Lane first-grader


Iggy Malik’s sister figured her kid brother would suggest naming a Lincoln Children’s Zoo giraffe after himself, but she was wrong.

As it turns out, the Meadow Lane Elementary School first-grader has a friend in his class named Phoebe, and he liked that name better — when it came to giraffes anyway — so that’s what he wrote on a piece of paper and turned in to his teacher.

More than 2,200 other Lincoln Public Schools first-graders did likewise, submitting their preferred name for one of the zoo's newest residents.

The zoo staff took suggestions, narrowed them to 20, and then to one.

Wednesday afternoon in the Meadow Lane gym, John Chapo, the Children’s Zoo CEO, formally introduced the 700-pound giraffe from the Como Park Zoo in St. Paul, Minnesota, by her new name.

New Zoo Giraffe, 9.4.18

Phoebe the giraffe is one of the zoo's newest exhibits.

After much fanfare and a very enthusiastic drumroll (created by a gymnasium full of very enthusiastic Meadow Lane students), Chapo told the young crowd the winning name was ... Phoebe!

The students — who also were very adept at creating the sound giraffes make (once zookeeper Emma Hazel told them it's much like the sound a sheep makes) — went wild.

Iggy went to the front of the gym, where all the zookeepers and school officials congratulated him. Chapo presented Principal Daniele Schulzkump with a large stuffed giraffe (also named Phoebe) for the school, and Iggy got his own stuffed giraffe (also to be named Phoebe, because why mess with a good thing?).

The 14-month-old giraffe arrived Sept. 4 to the Children Zoo’s new 8,600-square-foot, climate-controlled giraffe enclosure with indoor and outdoor feeding platforms — the first resident of the zoo’s $16 million expansion project.

She was soon joined by Joey, a 2-year-old male from Oklahoma City, and Allie, a 15-month-old from Seattle.

Zoo officials named Joey and Allie, but decided they’d like to let Lincoln’s first-graders be a part of the process.

Because Iggy's name was chosen, all Meadow Lane first-graders will get to go to the zoo this spring to meet — and feed — the giraffes.

As you might expect, the students — who mostly were sitting criss-cross-applesauce — went wild at the news.

Coincidentally, the name Phoebe is significant to Lincoln Public Schools, because in the 1890s,  Phebe Elliott became the first woman to serve on the school board.

Elliott Elementary is named after that Phebe, and Superintendent Steve Joel, who came to Meadow Lane on Wednesday for the big giraffe-name reveal, shared that connection with students.

Because this whole thing was really a big deal, one can imagine what the crowd did. 

“Wow is right!” responded Joel.

Iggy, of course, didn’t know anything about that Phebe. He was more concerned with the here and now, where he has a friend with a cool name he thought would be perfect for a giraffe.

Turns out, he was right.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7226 or

On Twitter @LJSreist.


Education reporter

Margaret Reist is a Lincoln native, the mom of three high school graduates now navigating college and an education junkie who covers students, teachers and policymakers inside and outside the K-12 classroom.

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