10/19/2008

The Crap Stops Here


Could this be the panda pen at the Taipei Zoo? The sign says something like "Glimmering New Exhibition Hall".

It does appear the Taipei Zoo is readying a cell for some animal or another. When I looked in the front door of the hall, I noticed bamboo stalks stacked on the floor.

Comment: When I was living in Vancouver, Canada during the early nineties, a debate on whether people should have the right to have zoos was underway. At the center of the conversation was Stanley Park, or rather, the zoo and aquarium in the middle of the park. On the one hand, people claimed it served an educational purpose. After all, one could take one's kids there on a weekend to throw stuff at the polar bear or get a family portrait in front of the killer whale tank. On the other hand, it was argued keeping animals in cages had no educational value at all. Visitors were simply looking at animals, with no clue about what it meant or even who these animals really were. The bears, elephants, deer and emu weren't in their natural habitat, hunting (being hunted) or doing anything like that. It just seemed they were on hand to make money for the city of Vancouver and vendors on the side. In 1996, Vancouver held a referendum and voters decided to close the zoo. I don't remember about the aquarium. Maybe that one had to go too.

Now, the Taipei Zoo has also become controversial, but for different reasons. Nobody is arguing that exploiting animals to sell T-shirts, baseball caps, stuffed animals and junk food is a bad thing. I mean McDonald's just opened inside the main gate and it's a huge success. Besides, people seem to think the zoo itself is lovely; and it is, but that's because it's located on the base of the Maokong Mountains. The big argument here is over the two pandas, to be on loan from China, as a token of a Chinese unification with Taiwan. I'm not kidding on this one either: one panda is named Tuan Tuan (團團) and the other Yuan Yuan (圓圓). When you put the words together, you get 團圓 or reunification in English. The reason this annoys people is it is untrue. Taiwan and the PRC were never unified; where does the re- come from? The PRC came into being in 1911, some 26 years after Ching Dynasty abandoned Taiwan to Japan, or 228 years after the Emperor Kangshi called Taiwan "a blob of mud floating in the water, a blob that had never had anything to do with China" before unsuccessfully trying to resell the blob to the Netherlands.

In fact, there's a long list of complaints about receiving these bears, but I'll just go with getting the historical record straight for now.




I don't think I've ever seen as much attention paid by a zoo to poop. These are but two of the many signs I noticed today on the topic. The bottom one was over a urinal I used while the top one was part of a poop wall exhibition of sort. The chocolate drops around the sign, in different colors and patterns, are actually piles of poop. There is even a huge playground apparatus for kids to climb over and into, which is supposed to look like a pile of crap. So, when people say "what a pile of crap" after leaving the panda pen, they might be talking about poop and nothing else.

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