Super Bowl prognostication: It’s a zoo out there

PT, the zoo’s 43-year-old primate

Prognosticating the Super Bowl is one of America’s favorite wastes of time. Whether it’s your favorite team participating or two you couldn’t care less about, everybody wants to be right when it comes picking the outcome of the big game.

And yes, there are often activities such as the always popular squares game or a simple prediction of the final score at stake. Nonetheless, it’s always nice to be able to say “I called that one right” when gathering with friends around the coffee machine the day after.

This practice is not limited to the human race. Animals at the Fort Worth Zoo have been predicting the Super Bowl winner for a couple of decades.

This year, PT, the zoo’s 43-year-old primate, made the prediction. She chose from two football-shaped piñatas stuffed with her favorite treats.

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She chose the Falcons, and were it not for the greatest comeback in Super Bowl history, her pick would have been the sixth correct in eight seasons. Overall, they’ve gotten the winner right over 50 percent of the time, eight of 14 times.

The New England Patriots overcame a 28-3 second-half deficit to defeat the Falcons 34-28 in the first Super Bowl to go overtime. They trailed 28-12 with less than six minutes remaining, scoring two touchdowns and a pair of two-point conversions to force overtime with the score tied at 28.

“The zoo began the tradition of having animals predict the Super Bowl winner in 1998, with our Asian elephant Rasha correctly choosing the Denver Broncos to win Super Bowl XXXII,” said Chelsea Adler, the zoo’s public relations coordinator.

The most recent animal to correctly predict the winner was Pancakes the pot-bellied pig, correctly choosing the Seattle Seahawks to win Super Bowl XLVIII over Denver 43-8.

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Adler said over the years a large variety of animals have been given the honor of making the prediction. The prognosticating animal varies from year to year. Past animals have also included a meercat and even a saltwater crocodile.

“The zoo is home to 7,000 animals, so we certainly have a big team to choose from,” she said. “We are excited to include the orangutan in the tradition for the first time and enjoy giving guests the opportunity to see a variety of animals make the prediction and interact with enrichment treats.

“This annual event is always a fun way for guests and observers to watch an animal participate in an entertaining enrichment activity. It is also a unique opportunity to highlight an animal and bring attention to the species.”

Along with being a lot of fun, the annual prediction event is very good for the animals, Adler said.

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“Placing novel objects in an animal’s exhibit is just one of the Fort Worth Zoo’s enrichment techniques, which provide our animals with opportunities to express behaviors like foraging, exploring, or even playing,” she said. “Enrichment activities also work to enhance zoo animals’ environments and promotes psychological well-being by changing the complexity of their exhibit.”

And it brings the animal into the spotlight, which can often create awareness. This was certainly the case with PT, part of a species that is listed as critically endangered by the International Union of Conservation of Nature.

“In the last 60 years, the Sumatran orangutan population is believed to have decreased by more than 50 percent,” Adler said. “The Fort Worth Zoo works with other zoos across the nation to manage and care for orangutans in order to ensure the long-term survival of the orangutan population.”