The first nearly indestructible ball designed for wild animals is a hit in zoos across the country, zookeepers report.
The ball, called the One World Futbol, will not pop or deflate, even if it's punctured multiple times by such things as a curious lion's teeth, a huge bird's sharp beak, thorns, barbed wire and glass.
One particular fan of the new ball is "Ralph," an elderly, hefty and often persnickety Aldabra tortoise.
"It is particularly difficult to find an enrichment item that can withstand the weight of a 600-pound tortoise and it's even more difficult to find something that a 100-year-old animal will become actively engaged in," explained Margaret Rousser, zoological manager at the Oakland Zoo in California.
"Ralph likes his One World Futbol and can even lay down on it, putting his full 600 pounds of weight on the ball, which just snaps back into shape when he gets up. The resilience of the One World Futbol has made it much easier to enrich a 100-year-old tortoise - Ralph is getting some much needed exercise!" she said.
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In addition to the Oakland Zoo, the ball is also in use at Zoo Atlanta, Blank Park Zoo (Iowa), Brookfield Zoo (Illinois), Central Florida Animal Reserve (Florida); Honolulu Zoo (Hawaii), Johannesburg Zoo (South Africa), Louisville Zoo (Kentucky); A Leg Up Pet Services (Canada) and others.
Tortoises aren't the ball's only fans. "Enrichment is a critical part of our everyday husbandry for zoo animals," said Rousser. "It provides mental stimulation, as well as physical activity. Though it is difficult to find toys that will hold up under pressure of exotic animals, we have found One World Futbols to be a great asset for several species at Oakland Zoo."
The ball would also seem to be the ultimate toy for kids, not to mention parents who are tired of having to replace broken/busted balls and toys. One World is now working to deliver the balls "to disadvantaged communities where play and sport are used to foster social change," according to the organization's website.
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As for the ball's usage at zoos, the org's mission is to support sustainability by reducing the need to constantly source and replace balls.
I doubt that fans like Ralph consider their environmental footprint. They're naturally green living! He's too busy having fun playing "let's try to squash the ball."
(Image: Adam Fink, Oakland Zoo)