Philadelphia Zoo challenges Minnesota zoos over NFC Championship

As the NFC Championship approaches, a beloved Philadelphia institution has decided to throw down the gauntlet to its peers halfway across the country.

After the Vikings defeated the Saints last Sunday, Philadelphia Zoo director Vikram Dewan, who was in Jacksonville, Fla., when the Eagles fell to the Patriots in their last Super Bowl appearance, picked up his phone and made two calls — one to Michelle Furrer, the campus manager of the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory in St. Paul, Minn., and the other to John Frawley, the director of the Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley, Minn.

He proposed an (eco)-friendly bet: The zoo in the losing city, or maybe cities, this weekend has to plant 52 trees in honor of Super Bowl LII and send a basket of local goodies to the winners. (The basket the Philadelphia Zoo hopes not to send will include Philadelphia Soft Pretzels, TastyKakes and of course, scrapple.)

Frawley and Furrer were quick to accept the challenge on behalf of their respective zoos. If the Eagles win, both Minnesota zoos will plant 52 trees, bringing the total to 104.

“A lot of zoo directors are really friendly with each other,” Furrer said. “We were definitely excited to be a part of a little friendly competition.”

The Philadelphia Zoo will plant its trees in Fairmount Park, the Como Park Zoo will plant in Como Regional Park, and the Minnesota Zoo will be planting all over its  campus. All three zoos expect to have a mix of staffers and volunteers on hand to help with the planting, which will take place in the spring.

“I wanted to highlight our magnificent hometown team, but also draw people’s awareness to helping the environment,” Dewan said. “No matter who wins the game on Sunday, the environment will benefit from our bet.”