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Dolphin, Koala honored on Keiro-no Hi celebration

Date Posted: 2010-09-23

Keiro-no Hi, or Respect for the Aged Day, celebrations rang out across Okinawa Monday, a day of honoring senior citizens and extends to heaping praise on live animals and plants.

In addition to special honors feted upon senior citizens, the salute to longevity reached up to Churaumi Aquarium in northern Okinawa and to the Okinawa City Zoo. The most popular dolphin at the aquarium, Oki-chan, is a 38-year veteran of performing for the crowds, while Minami, a koala bear residing at Okinawa City Zoo in Children’s Park, was due for attention, too.

The Koala is 16 years old, older than the average 10-15 years they typically live in the wild. Minami became a resident at the zoo in 1998.

Oki-chan is one of six dolphins doing shows at Churaumi, with her daughter Sami performs, too. Sami was born in 1999. Masae Makabe, Oki-chan’s trainer and handler says a specialty is a triple turn in the air, but says “Oki-chan is so earnest a lady, and a very settled dolphin.“ Makabe says the key to her longevity was doing exercises and maintaining a thinking, healthy body. Aquarium Chairman Zenzo Uchida says “we’ve had only two people working since 1975, and we look forward to seeing the Oki-chan show.

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