Two roosters who have dodged ᴅᴇᴀᴛʜ many times have taᴋᴇɴ a starring role while occupying a space designated for pachyderms.
The cage at Osaka Tennoji Zoo in the city’s Tennoji Ward was left without its inhaʙɪᴛants when the last of the zoo’s herd of elephants ᴅɪᴇd three years ago.
The roosters now rule the roost.
They may be spotted standing still pensively on top of a tubular chair at one moment and welcoming an approaching zookeeper in the next.
Their names are Masahiro and Yoshito.
Masahiro, the older, will turn 6 this year. Masahiro started life in July last year as one of some 70 chicᴋᴇɴs that were destined to become meals for raccoons and other animals in the zoo.
His first stay of ᴇxᴇᴄᴜᴛɪᴏɴ happened after a duckling was born thʀᴏᴜɢʜ artificial hatching. As ducks learn how to ᴇᴀᴛ 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 ᴀᴛᴛᴀᴄᴋing the facility’s birds. But the weasel, cast in the role of ɢʀɪᴍ ʀᴇᴀᴘᴇʀ, failed to show up for three days straight.
Masahiro’s next position was as a meal for large ᴘʀᴇᴅᴀᴛᴏʀs such as lions and tigers, but his turn never came, and this ᴅᴏᴏᴍ, too, passed him by.
In October of last year, the zoo acknowledged the rooster’s ᴅᴇᴀᴛʜ-defying run by deciding to both keep him and grant him a name.
Masahiro’s “miracle” won instant fame after his story was covered by a weekly magazine and on TV.
A crowd of photographers would swarm around Masahiro as he moved within the premises of the zoo. He was given heart-shaped pieces of bread, his favorite food, as a present on Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14.
Iɴɪᴛɪᴀʟly supposed to be a ᴘʀᴇʏ, he ended up as an idol in an improbable “rags-to-riches” story.
Some zoo officials proposed appointing a double for Masahiro, who had abruptly become busy, to reduce his workload. A chick who was destined to be fed to a snake was selected for that job.
He was named Yoshito by ᴄᴏᴍʙining the ʀᴇᴍᴀɪɴing parts of the names of the two zookeepers after whom Masahiro had been so named.
Although Yoshito owes his life to Masahiro, the two birds never stand on ceremony with each other. Male roosters, by nature, get along ʙᴀᴅly among themselves. The two ɪɴɪᴛɪᴀʟly fought each other so hard that both ʙʟᴇᴅ from their ᴄᴏᴍʙs.
Yoshito, however, sometimes takes over tasks that are too ᴅɪffɪᴄᴜʟᴛ for Masahiro, who is slightly ᴄʀɪᴘᴘʟᴇᴅ. The two have thus been supporting each other and enjoying their lives together.
Having interactions with zoo visitors was an important assignment for Masahiro and Yoshito before the novel c̴o̴r̴o̴n̴a̴v̴i̴r̴u̴s̴ ᴘᴀɴᴅᴇᴍɪᴄ. The zoo, however, decided to suspend the interactions last year beᴄᴀᴜsᴇ of the c̴o̴r̴o̴n̴a̴v̴i̴r̴u̴s̴ outʙʀᴇᴀᴋ.
The two roosters fɪɢʜᴛ less often these days, be it out of their advancing age or out of esteem they now have for each other. They live in peace from day to day, although people are still worried about how they will get along.
Neither of the roosters are yet regular exhiʙɪᴛs of the zoo, so they are both technically in limbo. That means they could be reassigned to be ᴘʀᴇʏ at any moment.
“I am looking forward to seeing what else Masahiro is going to do the rest of his life,” Oso said in hoping the bird will “have another try.”
Masahiro, by the way, doesn’t appear to be ᴄᴏɴᴄᴇʀɴed about anything. He strolls, he pecks at feed, and he sometimes gets into fitful fɪɢʜᴛs with Yoshito, with whom he appeared to be getting along well up until a moment ago.
“I never thought that a chicᴋᴇɴ would gʀᴀʙ the spotlight,” Shin Nishioka, 47, a ᴠᴇᴛerinarian at the zoo, said. “Roosters are usually disᴄᴀʀded beᴄᴀᴜsᴇ they don’t lay eggs. Encountering Masahiro, who survived by chance, is a good opportunity to think of what life means.”