Bob the sloth was shown an Argentine flag and a German flag by zoo employees today — and in an uncharacteristic burst of speed, reached out and grabbed the German one.
"We really like the idea of having such a generally slow-moving animal making predictions for such a fast-moving or fast-paced sport," said zookeeper Brendan Linnell.
Zoo employees say Bob has called the outcome of 14 previous World Cup matches this year, with a 71 per cent success rate.
They say they suspected Bob would choose Argentina, since sloths are South American animals.
Bob seemed to show some regional bias when he incorrectly chose Brazil to beat Germany in the semifinals.
Linnell said that was part of the reason the zoo chose Bob to be their World Cup ambassador. "We liked the idea of a South American native making picks for the games that were taking place in Brazil."
Bob, however, has never been to South America. The three-year-old sloth was born at the Toronto Zoo, and could stay there for several decades. The average lifespan of a sloth is approximately 30 years.
Since he's still young, Bob is far more active than most sloths, Linnell said - but he still sleeps about 23 hours a day.
Sloths are in a strange category of mammals called Xenarthrans, and their closest relatives are armadillos and anteaters.
"They look a little like a primate, they look a little like a Muppet," said Linnell. "They're just a very bizarre, very strange animal."
Bob is part of the Toronto Zoo's animal outreach team, and specially trained to be comfortable around people and crowds.
"People are just inherently curious about these guys. Everybody knows what a sloth is, but you rarely get an opportunity to see one up close, and see one moving around like Bob."
Linnell says the soothsaying sloth will be doing "casual encounters" with zoogoers this summer, and that if Germany wins on Sunday, people will be able to congratulate him in person.Suggest a correction