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World Cup at the National Zoo

World Cup fever is taking Washington by storm today—even the animals at the National Zoo.The animals and their keepers decided to take their own spin on the sport in anticipation of the 2010 FIFA World Cup by incorporating cones, cleats and soccer balls into their daily "animal-enrichment" activiti...

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The National Zoo's Madagascar Hedgehog Tenrec climbs out of a cleat today. Keepers set out soccer equipment to get the animals in the spirit of the game. Photo by Mehgan Murphy.




World Cup fever is taking Washington by storm today—even the animals at the National Zoo.



The animals and their keepers decided to take their own spin on the sport in anticipation of the 2010 FIFA World Cup by incorporating cones, cleats and soccer balls into their daily "animal-enrichment" activities. Keepers use the activities to stimulate the animals mentally and physically and also give them a chance to show off their natural behaviors, and in some cases, talents.



This Golden Lion Tamarin looks ready to go for the ball at the National Zoo. Photo by Mehgan Murphy.



Still, we'd like to offer a few pointers to our animal friends. First, to the golden lion tamarin and slender-tailed meerkat: We appreciate the enthusiasm you're showing with your hands, but unless you're going for your best Thierry Henry impression, this is a feet-only game.



Second, we think that the porcupine might want to consider being a striker instead of a defenseman (what better tool than spikes for warding off defenders?)



And lastly, we know the sport can be daunting and at times frightening, Mr. Hedgehog, but we really think you'd have better luck with the cleat on your foot instead of sitting in it.



Regardless of who you're rooting for this weekend, we're betting you can't root against any of these guys.



In between matches, head over to the National Zoo to see the animals in the Small Mammal House daily from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.



View a photo gallery of the small mammals playing soccer!



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