OAKLAND -- The Oakland Zoo is taking part in a pilot program that promises to provide some much-needed fun and games for animals including a 100-year-old, "football" loving tortoise.

The One World Futbol Project's "Zoo Seconds" program will donate soccer balls that are designed to be nearly indestructible for use in animal enrichment programs, zoo officials said.

Zoo animals get mental stimulation and physical activity by playing with balls and other toys, but it has been difficult to find toys that "hold up under the pressure," said Margaret Rousser, the zoo's zoological manager.

Ralph, the zoo's 100-year-old Aldabra tortoise, likes to lay right on top of the soccer ball, Rousser said. The donated One World Futbols, which are made to survive rough environments without ever popping or deflating, can take the abuse.

"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," Rousser said.

Other zoos participating in the pilot program include Zoo Atlanta, Blank Park Zoo in Iowa, Brookfield Zoo in Illinois, Central Florida Animal Reserve, Honolulu Zoo in Hawaii, Johannesburg Zoo in South Africa, the Louisville Zoo in Kentucky and A Leg Up Pet Services in Canada.



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