June 6, 2012

annie predicts the playoffs

Could the outcome of tonight's National Hockey League playoff game be riding on the snout of one cuddly anteater? It might seem that way, as Annie, a seven-year-old giant anteater at the Bergen County Zoo in Paramus, NJ, recently "predicted" the Los Angeles Kings to win over the New Jersey Devils for this year's Stanley Cup. The demonstration brings back memories of Paul, the German octopus who correctly "predicted" his home country would lose to Spain in the 2010 World Cup of soccer. Indeed, with the Kings already up 3-0 in the best-of-seven series, tonight's game 4 could be vindication for an anteater who was asked to choose between a team from the City of Angels and a team whose home ice is just 20 miles from her zoo enclosure.

So how did Annie get into the Stanley Cup-predicting business? Glad you asked. It turns out the stunt was the brainchild of a local television station that wanted to drum up publicity for the hockey finals. Irene Egan, the supervisor of zookeeping who regularly handles and cares for Annie, actually confessed that several other animals—including a toucan, a hedgehog, and a pig—were tested for the prediction contest, but that Annie won over the producers' hearts. "They thought she was the most interesting animal," Egan said. Well, of course she was ;)

As for the contest itself, I learned from Egan that each bowl was filled with an array of Annie's favorite treats—things like oranges, bananas, avocado, and eggs—as a means to "enhance her interest." And while our fine furry friend gravitated right away toward the bowl representing the team from LA, in the end she licked both bowls clean. "She's pretty food-motivated," said Egan.

Annie first arrived at the zoo when she was a pup, around seven years ago. And truth be told, "Annie" is not her official name, but rather a nickname that Egan and the other keepers have for their long-snouted resident. She is the lone giant anteater at the zoo, which is not unusual, since giant anteaters mostly live on their own in the wild. "She likes to take a nap a lot of the time," Egan remarked.

Of course, all of this is prediction stuff is pure whimsy. But in a world where grown men go for weeks without shaving or changing their socks for fear of breaking whatever lucky streak they've got going, I'm sure little Annie has made Kings fans across the nation smile from ear to ear. •>~

UPDATE 11/11/12: Well, it looks like Annie was right all along :) Congrats to the LA Kings for winning their first Stanley Cup!