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Red panda Futa still standing for fans, and apples, at 15 yrs old

Red panda Futa stands for about 10 seconds to get a piece of apple from a zookeeper, at Chiba Zoological Park in the city of Chiba, on July 5, 2018. (Mainichi)

CHIBA -- Chiba Zoological Park's popular red panda Futa, who rose to fame in Japan by conspicuously standing on his two hind legs, celebrated his 15th birthday on July 5.

In human years, Futa is pushing 70, but he still strikes his famous standing pose even now when zookeepers give him food. He just can't keep standing for a long time like he could in his youth.

A birthday celebration was held for the red panda on July 5 at the park in Chiba, located to the east of Tokyo. Futa stood several times when a zookeeper gave him decorated apples. A 44-year-old woman from Ichihara, Chiba Prefecture, said, "I have been coming to see Futa even before he was in the news. He has not stood recently, and I think he did quite well today."

According to the facility, Futa came to the zoo in 2004. Red pandas have a habit of climbing tall trees, but there was no high place in his enclosure at the time. So, Futa took to looking out over his surroundings while standing on two legs for a few minutes at a time. However, he rarely stood after a watchtower was built for him in 2011. Now, he spends most of his time dozing.

"Futa has not once needed a doctor," said the red panda's keeper Shohei Hamada, 56. "I hope he will continue to live for a long time."

(Japanese original by Mayumi Nobuta, Chiba Bureau)

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