BREC zoo tiger picks Denver to win the big game

As the door to the tiger enclosure opened Saturday morning, two Sumatran tigers, brothers, sprang out of the gate, drawn by the smell of cinnamon and hay in two special boxes.

The smaller tiger, aptly named Seattle, quickly grabbed the painted, cardboard box that was labeled “Super Bowl Champions” while the larger tiger, Denver, ran toward the box labeled “Better Luck Next Year.”

Seattle moved the championship box away from his brother and gnawed on it for just a few seconds before leaving it ripe for the taking.

Denver took the opportunity and snatched the “Super Bowl Champions” box, leaving Seattle to munch on the runner-up box. The tigers stayed at the respective boxes for several minutes, methodically ripping them both to shreds.

For the Seattle Seahawks fans standing outside the “Realm of the Tiger” enclosure at BREC’s Baton Rouge Zoo on Saturday, the pick by Seattle right out of the gate was a clear sign that the Seattle Seahawks will leave MetLife Stadium in New Jersey on Sunday night Super Bowl Champions.

But Denver Broncos fans pointed to the fact that Denver ended up with the champions box for longer after Seattle’s fumble as an indication that the Broncos will hoist the Lombardi trophy into the New Jersey air Sunday after a late-game rally.

That was the consensus among the crowd and zoo officials Saturday and certainly how Brandi Schaeffer, a Colorado native who lives in Baton Rouge, saw it.

“Denver’s all about slow and steady and making the plays to finish,” she said while sporting a Broncos shirt and hat. “That’s what’s going to happen.”

Zoo officials held the event Saturday, one day before the Super Bowl, because the teams in the big game coincidentally reflected the tigers’ names given to them at the Los Angeles Zoo six years ago when they were born.

The tigers’ picks follow a trend of animals picking the winner of major sporting events, though some have proven more successful at it than others.

Both tigers are estimated to weigh between 300-400 pounds, though officials say Denver is slightly larger and uses his size to push the smaller Seattle around in the enclosure.

Phil Frost, zoo director, said many questioned when they announced the prediction event if those were the tigers’ actual names or if zoo officials conveniently changed them to capitalize on the two teams playing Sunday.

“Folks, that’s their real names,” Frost told the gathered crowd outside the zoo entrance.

The event took place on what was billed as Baton Rouge City Appreciation Day to thank the zoo’s supporters. Zoo officials had previously held appreciation days for residents of Central, Baker and Zachary.

Baton Rouge Mayor-President Kip Holden, BREC Chairwoman Carolyn McKnight and Metro councilwomen C. Denise Marcelle and Chauna Banks-Daniel were among those at the zoo Saturday.

Holden and McKnight spent some time politicking at the zoo, urging parish voters to renew the BREC tax when it comes up for renewal in April.

Zoo keepers came up with the idea for the Super Bowl game prediction earlier this week, said Kaki Heiligenthal, director of marketing and development for the zoo.

Logan Gunter, 6, from St. Francisville, said he would be pulling for the Broncos in the Super Bowl because Denver ended up with the box.

“I think it’s cute; I think it’s amazing,” said Brandi Gunter, the boy’s mother.

She and Schaeffer heard about the event on Facebook and went to the zoo Saturday specifically to see the tigers.

After Denver left the box, he walked around, leaving the contents to his younger brother. Seattle proceeded to eat the box, leaving his tongue green, one of the Seahawks colors, from non-toxic paint similar to that used by school children.

Denver found a nice spot in the shade, posed for pictures, cleaned his paws and went to sleep.