CHICAGO — Three sixth-grade girls couldn't believe their ears when they heard the name choices for the "Name the Sea Otter Pup" contest at the Shedd Aquarium.
The three best friends — Luna, Cali and Ella, who everyone calls Ellie — met at Decatur Classical Middle School and had the incredible luck of having their names as three of the five possible choices for the sea otter formerly known as Pup 681.
"We heard it on the radio and thought 'is this right?'" said Ella's mom, Kristin Boeke-Greven of Logan Square, not fathoming three of the five choices were the same names as her daughter and her two best friends.
Poppy and Ana were the other two name choices.
"It was very surprising and really cool all at the same time. I voted as soon as I got home," said Cali, 11, from Ravenswood. "I was looking at the pictures, and she was so cute. It just made it cooler."
Friday morning, the sea otter, which was found abandoned at just a week old, was officially named "Luna."
"I was very surprised; I thought it was going to be Poppy," said Luna, 11, of North Park. "I have an otter now that has my name. And she is adorable, which makes it even better."
The contest garnered international attention when "Harry Potter" author J.K. Rowling weighed in with her suggestion — the winning one, which she took as a nod to her character Luna Lovegood.
The five names were selected by the Shedd’s marine mammal staff and stemmed from where the otter was found, which is common when naming the animals, said Tim Binder, vice president of animal collections.
"When we name our animals, we typically look at something that occurs around them in the environment which they're found," Binder said, before explaning how the staff came up with the choices.
With some of the name choices, the connection is easy to see: Cali as in California, where the pup was found. Poppy was more of a stretch, named for eschscholzia californica, the state flower of the Golden State, also known as the California Poppy.
The pup was found stranded near Ano Nuevo State Park, which is famous as a mating place for elephant seals — thus the name Ellie. Ana was also derived from the name of the state park, Binder said.
The winning name, Luna, was inspired by Half Moon Bay, a coastal city in California near where the pup was found, Binder said.
The pup was found abandoned on Sept. 30 at Coastways Beach. She was estimated to be about 5-7 days old, Binder said.
She had been separated for her mom for more than 16 hours and was small for a baby otter, weighing a little less than 2½ pounds, according to staff at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where she went for rehabilitation.
She arrived at the Shedd on Oct. 28 and now weighs more than 10 pounds, thanks to high-calorie formula and seafood bits she was fed every three hours there.
For more neighborhood news, listen to DNAinfo Radio here: