Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Remedying Ignorance and Disinterest in Taiwan's Ecological Treasures

Video of an Asiatic Black Bear --- so cute. I have yet to find out whether it is the Formosan black bear subspecies or not. (I hear background English and Japanese audio so the zoo could be in Japan.)

Taiwan has a lot of indigenous wildlife -- endangered species and subspecies. Recent hype and focus on pandas in the Taipei Zoo as well as 50 years of focus on China's history, geography and culture in the school systems leaves Taiwanese ignorant or distracted from the rich, diverse and unique wildlife that needs to be preserved in Taiwan. Imagine what could be done with the money now being spent to keep the pandas at the Taipei Zoo!

At all the elementary schools and kindergartens, you see motifs of pandas and tigers and other animals that carry no special significance or relation to Taiwan's natural wonders, wildlife and resources.

It would be far better to emphasize Taiwan's native species: replace the Panda motifs with Formosan Black Bears (臺灣黑熊). Replace the tigers with Formosan Clouded Leopards (臺灣雲豹). What about the Sika Deer? The Swinhoe's Pheasant (藍腹鷴)? (I've seen a label in one picture that called it a Chinese Blue Phoenix! But it is found in Taiwan, not China.) And yes, one could think of it as representing a mythical phoenix. Why not replace the phoenix motifs in schools with the Swinhoe's pheasant or the Mikado Pheasant (黑長尾雉)? How about replacing dragon motifs with armor-plated Formosan Pangolins (臺灣鯪鯉)? Then you have the Formosa Blue Magpie (臺灣藍鵲), the Flying Squirrels and the different eagles (e.g. the Crested Serpent Eagle 大冠鷲) and hawks which also should be highlighted.

As these animals become emphasized elements and valued wildlife representing Taiwan (in the same way that panda's represent China), there will be a driving force in the culture that seeks to preserve habitats, environments and wild-spaces.

Taiwan needs this cultural value because the fifty years of KMT authoritarian dictatorship saw only the value of making as much money as you can or preparing to "fight back" to China. The KMT regime saw Taiwan as a resource to exploit and a temporary home of exile, but not something as to be valued, cherished and nourished in itself.

Those under the authoritarian rule were subject to the brainwashing and China-focused ideology that again ignored or almost deliberately suppressed knowledge of Taiwan's ecological resources or anything else that would contribute to the people being loyal to their homeland instead of an ultimate allegiance to the regime or China. Taiwan was not to be valued for itself. The KMT wanted to create a loyalty to China.

With both the uncertainty for the future and the focus away from Taiwan, people trampled on the environment, poached bears and clouded leopards for Chinese medicine, and haphazardly destroyed habitat.

We need to save the ecological treasures that remain in Taiwan and seek a way to bring them back to a sustainable flourishing level. More than just saving them, we need to nurture them. We need to not just think of green spaces in Taipei's cities to give its citizens a peace of mind, but also wild spaces where there is intentional husbanding of all the beautiful, unique and irreplaceable ecological resources of Taiwan.

Here is a list of some of Taiwan's vunerable species

Here is an article on Hwang Mei-hsiu (黃美秀), a Pingtung University of Science and Technology professor's work to protect the Formosan Black Bear.

Here is one organization Wild at Heart which works to improve wild-life and nature conservation in Taiwan.

The View from Taiwan write on reintroducing the clouded leopard.

See also the Taiwan Review article In Search of the Clouded Leopard

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