Now that Paul the Octopus is no longer around to defend his World Cup champion prognosticator title, which denizen of the animal kingdom will step up to succeed him?
With just days until the opening kickoff of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, at least two viable candidates have emerged, but it’s anyone’s bet as to which will reign supreme.
China thinks it has the answer to Paul — a group of baby pandas at the Giant Panda Protection and Research Center in Sichuan province. According to media reports, the pandas will try to predict the win-loss-or-draw outcome of soccer matches between competing nations by, among other things, choosing food from bamboo baskets and racing up trees marked with different national flags.
Also weighing in for the challenge is Nelly the elephant, a resident of a wildlife park in Hodenhagen, Germany. Nelly predicts winners by using her trunk to knock a soccer ball into one of two nets. Nelly is said to have correctly predicted 30 of the 33 results from the women’s FIFA World Cup in 2006.
Still not sure who to place your bets with? There’s no shortage of other World Cup-predicting animals, which, according to one report, include Brett the zebra, Tian Tian the giant panda, Barry the box jellyfish, Elmer the spot-breasted ibis, Chiyo the Thompson’s gazelle and Stephen the slime mold.
Any one of those creatures will have a hard time besting Paul, the brainy, eight-tentacled cephalolod whose uncanny oracle abilities endeared himself to a world of soccer-loving enthusiasts. Paul, who lived In a tank at the Oberhausen Sea Life Center in western Germany, is said to have correctly predicted the results of eight 2010 World Cup matches by choosing between flags placed on top of boxes containing food, usually a mussel or oyster. Paul passed away a few months later in his water tank, but his legacy is still making waves.