Aside from all the action on the field, the most enduring memories from soccer’s 2010 World Cup tournament may be the buzzing sound created by thousands of plastic horns and Paul the octopus. Paul was able to “predict” match results with astonishing accuracy. Paul isn’t the only animal with an interest in soccer, though. The World Cup was held in South Africa that year and perhaps it’s no accident that a lion from the Johannesburg Zoo has since taken up the sport.
Agnes Maluleke, head of the zoo’s carnivore section (“I am looking after all the big and hairy and scary animals”) introduces the majestic feline: “Triton is our male white lion. He’s pure white, he’s not a carrier of tawny colored genes. He was bred here in the Johannesburg Zoo and hand-raised by one of the keepers about 10 or 11 years ago. And he likes playing soccer.”
Triton may not have mastered all the intricacies of “the beautiful game,” but he certainly has fun knocking his soccer ball around the lion enclosure. When the ball is about to be tossed to him, he lets out an excited roar and starts running once it’s in the air. His enormous paws are perfect for batting the ball around (apparently he thinks he’s a goalie). If the ball ends up in the water, Triton dives right in and brings it back to dry land. About the only problem is that the zoo needs to keep an adequate supply of soccer balls on hand. Much as Triton loves them, his strength is such that they don’t last very long!
As you’ll see in the video posted below, the mighty Triton looks a lot like a house cat playing with a ball of yarn. He’s just a lot bigger!
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