PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A new generation of basketball stars is rising in Oregon, but they aren’t who you might expect…
The Oregon Zoo has a history of aquatic basketball superstars. For several years, their otter Eddie was a basketball pro, making a splash on the internet in videos where he showed off his dunking skills.
After Eddie passed away in 2018, the mantle was passed to the now 9-year-old Juno, who the Oregon Zoo said caught on quickly to the sea otter dunking.
On Friday, the zoo announced that two new teammates have been recruited to the “Harlem Globe Otters”, 6-year-old Lincoln and 4-year-old Sushi are now up-and-coming hoopsters.
The zoo’s senior marine life keeper, Nicole Nicassio-Hiksey, shared that while Juno is still the team’s star, the two new recruits are an excellent addition.
“Juno is definitely the star,” said Nicassio-Hiskey. “But our two new ‘rookies’ are bringing a lot of energy and enthusiasm to the game.”
The dunk practice, while fun, also has health benefits for the otters, veterinarians say, helping to fight off arthritics and stiffness as the otters get older.
According to the zoo, the dunking exercises mimic a natural behavior called “spy hop: where wild sea otters will hop straight up out of the ocean so they can survey their surroundings.
When the new otter recruits began practicing hoops, they practiced in a private pool, but now they are making their practice sessions public on the custom-made hoop in the zoo’s Pacific Shores habitat.
Sea otters were once abundant along the Oregon Coast, but in the 1900s they were hunted nearly to extinction and now they haven’t made permanent residence in the state in over a century. Efforts are being made however by the zoo and their partner the Elakha Alliance to reintroduce them to the wild.