National

Thrice spared death, Osaka zoo rooster draws crowds looking to get lucky

Kyodo

A rooster raised by Osaka’s Tennoji Zoo as food for other animals has now become an attraction himself, after thrice managing to avoid the gallows and a grim fate as fare for his fellows.

It seems a belief has taken hold among some visitors that the animal’s remarkable streak of luck may rub off on them.

The bird, which has been dubbed Masahiro, often draws crowds as he struts around the zoo in the evenings.

Masahiro started life in July last year as one of some 70 chickens that were destined to become meals for raccoons and other animals in the zoo.

His first stay of execution happened after a duckling was born through artificial hatching. As ducks learn how to eat from their parents, Masahiro was chosen to serve as the chick’s surrogate dad and role model, which bought him some time.

His second reprieve came two months later, when he was placed in a cage as bait to catch a wild weasel that was attacking the facility’s birds. But the weasel, cast in the role of grim reaper, failed to show up for three days straight.

Masahiro’s next position was as a meal for large predators such as lions and tigers, but his turn never came, and this doom, too, passed him by.

In October of last year, the zoo acknowledged the rooster’s death-defying run by deciding to both keep him and grant him a name.

Masahiro’s popularity with visitors also owes to his gentle disposition. He is tolerant of crowds, and rarely thrashes around when held in a visitor’s arms.

Clutching Masahiro to her chest, a woman in her 30s said she was thrilled to touch him and hoped to “capitalize on his luck.”

Such is Masahiro’s newfound celebrity that he even spent a day serving as “chief” of the Osaka Prefectural Police’s highway patrol unit in September. He will also appear in an event at the zoo in November to promote New Year’s cards for 2017, which is the year of the rooster in the Chinese zodiac.

“I never thought that a chicken would grab the spotlight,” Shin Nishioka, 47, a veterinarian at the zoo, said. “Roosters are usually discarded because they don’t lay eggs. Encountering Masahiro, who survived by chance, is a good opportunity to think of what life means.”