You may know Tony Little's name from infomercials or HSN, where he often sells his Gazelle Glider brand of personal fitness devices. Now he has lent his name to an actual gazelle, a critically endangered dama gazelle that was born last September at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C.
The baby gazelle — the second calf born at the National Zoo in 2012 but the only one to survive — has been named "Little Tony" for his hyperactive behavior, which reminded zoo staff of the infomercial star. The story behind the naming was announced last month on the Friends of the National Zoo Facebook page: "Recently, one of these calves leaped (or shall we say 'stotted' and 'pronged') into the heart of an American fitness icon who many know for his infomercials and larger-than-life personality — Tony Little. Little drew inspiration from these animals' movements when he named his signature fitness product the 'Gazelle glider.' Now, he can visit the zoo and see these movements in action as his namesake — 'Tony' the dama gazelle — runs and leaps across his exhibit."
Little has apparently lent more than just his name. He's also given his support to the zoo. "Little's generous support and contribution to the zoo helps fund animal care, science, and conservation at the Cheetah Conservation Station," the announcement declared.
As for Tony Little himself, he said "the birth of this amazing young gazelle is cause for great celebration. We owe a debt of gratitude to the wonderful people at the National Zoo for their dedication to research, conservation, and education. I encourage all Americans to support their efforts."
Dama gazelles are critically endangered. Native to Chad, Mali and Niger, the species also used to be found in Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Nigeria and Tunisia but has been hunted out of existence in those countries. According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, dama gazelle populations have dropped 80 percent in the past 10 years, and the wild population may now be fewer than 500 individuals.
Little Tony won't be all that little by the time he grows up. Dama gazelles can reach up to 5.5 feet in length and weigh up to 165 pounds.
The National Zoo posted the above video of the young calf when he was just 3 weeks old, and you can clearly see the hyperactive behavior that led to his new name.