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LONDON SCENE: Zoo animals get into Olympic act

Editor’s Note: In addition to covering athletes and events at the Summer Olympics, Cronkite News Service reporters are offering occasional observations about their experiences.

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LONDON – Children laugh and squeal with excitement as what was described as a dangerous predator arrives on stage in the amphitheater in the London Zoo. A small brown owl appears and is barely visible if you aren’t attentive.

Bob the burrowing owl flies through the audience and lands on one boy’s head as the speaker explains different traits the owl possesses – like not being nocturnal.

Then Bob gets ready to do what he came to do.

Running from one trainer to another, Bob competes for his Olympic medal: a treat.

To capitalize on the Olympics, the London Zoo has a series called Animal Athletes in Action. It features animals rewarded treats for showing off their talents in an Olympic event.

At the penguin pool, visitors were told penguins would medal in diving. Children watched penguins dive and swim when fed fish.

The otters spellbound me. Swimming, running, playing and rolling around with each other, the enthusiastic creatures never rest. With small ears and noses that close while underwater and the ability to hold their breath for five minutes, otters are presented as the animal athletes that would win swimming.

In an animal Olympics, zebras would claim gold in marathons, lions would win the triple jump and insects would take home the gold in weightlifting.

That may sound silly – but not in the animal Olympics at the London Zoo.