Famous Lesser Panda Turns 20 at Japan Zoo

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Futa stands on his hind legs in May 2005.

CHIBA — Futa, the lesser panda known for standing on his hind legs, has reached the ripe old age of 20 on Wednesday at in the Chiba Zoological Park in Chiba.

Futa is long-lived for his species — in human years, he would be over 80. However, he has been in poor health for several years now, and the zoo puts him on public display less often than before. Breeding staff and other officials are doing their best to help Futa spend the rest of his life in comfort.

Futa was born in 2003 at Nihondaira Zoo in Shizuoka City, and came to the Chiba Zoological Park in March 2004 for breeding. He was highly curious and often stood up straight on his hind legs to look outside his enclosure.

The standing pose was featured by the media in 2005, and Futa became highly popular. The zoological park had 650,000 visitors in fiscal 2004, a figure that rose to 880,000 in fiscal 2006. A book of photos was published, and there were numerous requests for Futa to appear in TV commercials.

Though Futa is still popular, his physical condition has declined. In December 2020, his right cheek was so swollen due to pyorrhea that he could not open his right eye. Due to these and other health problems, Futa was not displayed for about five months.

Futa no longer stands on his hind legs and he spends most of his time lying down in his shed to avoid the hot weather. In the morning and evening when the sunlight is mild, Futa walks around on all fours.

In late June, the zoological park set up a cool fan in Futa’s enclosure, financed by crowdfunding donations, so he can live more comfortably.

“We want to give him the right environment, so that Futa can live a healthy life for as long as possible,” said Kazumasa Kaburagi, 60, superintendent of the zoological park.

Courtesy of the Chiba Zoological Park
Futa takes a walk on June 29.