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Texas zoo gorilla named “Gus” for Kansas university’s mascot (and Lonesome Dove’s ‘Gus’)

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — The first gorilla born in captivity at the Fort Worth Zoo in Texas has been dubbed “Gus,” thanks to fans of Pittsburg State University in Kansas who took over a social media campaign to name the animal and voted for the moniker of the school’s mascot.

When the baby gorilla was born Dec. 5, zoo officials decided to let the public name him. The campaign was swamped with votes from supporters of the Kansas university whose mascot is Augustus, popularly known as Gus, The Joplin Globe reported (http://bit.ly/1VxzRHd ).

“We just watched what happened, which was hysterical for us,” said Alexis Wilson, a spokeswoman for the zoo. “We had votes at the zoo and on Facebook and Twitter. When it started out of the four choices, a different name led in each (format) of the race . then social media just kinda blew up. It was so fun.”

“Gus” was originally suggested to honor Gus McCrae, a character in the western “Lonesome Dove.”

When the contest was announced, Jerry Koehler of Denton, Texas, whose son graduated from Pittsburg State, contacted Brett Dalton, coordinator of web content and social media at Pittsburg State, which has about 7,500 students

Among the four options, “Gus” trailed by more than 500 votes when Dalton shared the poll on the university’s social media formats. “Gus” became the leading choice in 24 hours, and when the university officially backed the campaign, the landslide began.

“It was incredible to see how our social media followers jumped on this,” Dalton said.

Visitors to the zoo also voted but Facebook and Twitter voters decided the outcome. Gus received 1,793 votes on Facebook, compared with Grover (986), Mosi (778) and Crockett (253). Twitter results were similar, Wilson said.

Since the results were announced, the zoo has seen several people visit the zoo who were clearly Pittsburg State supporters, Wilson said.

Gus, the fifth of the Fort Worth zoo’s gorilla troop, was born to Gracie and the zoo’s silverback, Elmo.

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Information from: The Joplin (Mo.) Globe, http://www.joplinglobe.com

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