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Monday, May 21, 2012

How's that for a dunk? Willie the polar bear takes the plunge with underwater basketball

Move over, LeBron James - basketball's newest superstar has risen.

Willie the polar bear looks destined for the court as he spins a ball on his giant paw and tosses it in the air as part of his daily workout.

The 60-stone beast - pictured at North Carolina Zoo, in the U.S. - keeps himself match fit by playing for hours on end in his 115,000 gallon pool.

Showman: Willie wows the visitors by spinning the ball on his gigantic paw (left) at North Carolina Zoo, Asheboro, U.S. before forcing it under the surface (right)

Willie, who is 8ft6in tall, was rescued in in 2002 from a travelling circus, where he was kept in a cramped cage and fed only vegetables.

Resident zoo photographer Valerie Abbott, 54, said: 'Willie is certainly tall enough to be a basketball player.

'He has lots of inflatable toys and floats but he loves the ball.'

Willie recently celebrated his 27th birthday. In the wild, the average polar bear lives to 18 but in captivity some live into their mid thirties.

Three-pointer: 8ft6in Willie launches the ball high into the air as he treads water in his 115,000-gallon pool

Good hustle: The 60-stone predator chases after his favourite toy

He is currently staying at Milwaukee County Zoo while the polar bear exhibit in North Carolina is being extended.

He should be able to return in Spring 2013.

Valerie recently travelled the 1,000 miles to see Willie in his temporary home.

She said: 'He's doing well and has his ball to play with, but the staff at the North Carolina Zoo all miss him.

'He is our star attraction and such a show off, so a lot of visitors have been asking "where's Willie?"'

Hogging the ball: He may be the only one playing but Willie looks no less determined to keep possession

Main attraction: Visitors to the zoo can't wait for Willie to return from Milwaukee, where is staying during refurbishments to his enclosure

Safe hands: The 27-year-old polar bear demonstrates his impressive ball control skills

Stretch it out: Willie shows off his enormous height, which could well come in handy against the NBA's finest



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