The otter in question is Juno, a 5 year old sea otter. She was saved as a pup near California’s Monterey Bay after her mother’s disappearance. She is a good otter, according to the person whose job it is to evaluate the otters.
“She’s just a sweet, amazing otter, I can not say enough about her,” said Amy Hash, a sitter of marine life. “She has a lot of energy, she likes to train, she’s a happy little otter.”
The dunks take place at the Oregon Zoo in Portland. Specifically, in a hoop located in an area behind the scene of the installation. There is a sticker of the Portland Trail Blazers in the center of the board, which Juno won while learning to anchor in April.
This is how Juno, the Otter, learned to reverse, a two-month process that ended in triumph and many fish sandwiches.
Before Juno, Eddie was the otter. In 2012, at age 14, he learned to turn around. Otters rarely live beyond the age of 15 and, in his geriatric state, Eddie developed arthritis in the elbows and shoulders.
The vets prescribed physical therapy for Eddie, who had to keep his shoulders and elbows active and strong. And the caregivers went back to basketball. Otters love manipulating things with their amazingly dexterous legs. Eddie had to stretch and deflate, bending the two problematic joints.
Eddie already knew how to retrieve an object and present it to the owners. The shooters threw a ball into their pen and placed their hands on a plastic edge. Soon, he found himself stuck like a pro and would become famous on the Internet when the images of his friends become viral.
He was considered one of the oldest otters in her history when he died in December 2018 at the age of 21.
“We are very attached to these animals at the zoo,” said Hash. “It was difficult when he died and, in memory, we decided that someone had to learn how to play water basketball.”
The managers chose Juno: bold, eager to please and the oldest of the zoo’s sea otters. Juno does not suffer from arthritis, but physical activity is a good physical and mental exercise and could be a helpful treatment for joint problems as she gets older.
The training began with a simple capture game, said Hash. Hash gave the otter a balloon and rewarded Juno with a fish sandwich when she returned it. When Juno started to master this task, they moved their game to the hoop and Hash encouraged her to get into the water and lift the ball over her head.
“As soon as the she starts doing what you want, as if putting her arms in the basket, she will receive a nice reward,” said Hash.
After a while, Juno started to dominate the fall of the ball. Well, it’s ok … she was close. Juno came out of the water in the middle of the basket and blocked the ball outside; she followed a few training sessions before she discovered him.
But for Hash, the skills of the otter in basketball were not complete.
“I wanted her to look like Damian Lillard, because he’s amazing,” he said, referring to the Trail Blazers star guard. “She has a rolling behavior in which she will roll in the water with the behavior of the ball and turn, as she must be able to turn and roll to get to the basket.”
Now, Juno can forge defenses like a sushi chef who works with fresh tuna, and she is ready to show the world.
Juno’s next lesson, says Hash, will be the training of the guards.
“One day,” he said, “I’m going to get it thrown, and then I’ll regret it, because an otter will throw things at me all the time.”
Source: Washington Post