Hogle Zoo orangutan picks Ravens to win Super Bowl
SLC • Also, the zoo's 2012 attendance tops 1.2 million, best in facility's 82 years.
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Moving as quickly as Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis, Eli the orangutan picked the Ravens to defeat the San Francisco 49ers in Sunday's Super Bowl.

Primates at Utah's Hogle Zoo have correctly picked the Super Bowl winner in each of the last five years. So people were paying attention when Eli entered his cage Thursday morning and saw that his keepers had set up helmets for this year's teams.

He wasted no time heading directly to the Ravens' helmet and "knocked it down decisively," observed zoo spokeswoman Erica Hansen. "He didn't even look at the 49ers [helmet]. It took all of two seconds. Maybe that means it might be a blowout."

We'll know Sunday night.

Also Thursday, Hansen noted that Hogle Zoo set an attendance record last year, attracting 1,221,363 visitors to see its expanded animal exhibits.

"This banner year keeps Hogle Zoo in the top five paid attractions in Utah, including national parks," she said, adding that 2012 was the third year in the zoo's 82-year history in which visitors topped 1 million.

Hansen attributed the surge in visitation to June's opening of Rocky Shores, an exhibit focusing on the wildlife of the northwest continental coastline with a polar bear named Rizzo, three grizzly bears, bald eagles, river otters, seals and a blind sea lion dubbed Big Guy. More than 200,000 people visited the zoo in Rocky Shore's opening month, she noted.

Visitors also were attracted by two births during the year — Anuli, a giraffe, and Chim, a snow leopard.

Zoo officials now are focusing on completing an exhibit highlighting the African Savanna and its mix of lions, zebras and giraffes. A train ride through the savanna and a giraffe-feeding station will be key features of this exhibit, scheduled to open in spring 2014, Hansen said.

mikeg@sltrib.com

Twitter: @sltribmikeg —

Hogle Zoo visitation

Top five attendance years:

2012 • 1,221,363

2011 • 1,023,842

2009 • 1,020,610

2008 • 996,070

2007 • 954,551

Source • Utah's Hogle Zoo