Taipei Zoo Pandas 臺北動物園大熊貓
Yesterday was the first day that pandas when on display to the public at the Taipei Zoo. The line to get in was long, it being the first day of the New Year:
Recently the Chinese government sent Taiwan a pair of pandas, 團團 and 圓圓. Here is a capture from TV showing the differences between the two’s black eye patches:
The news said people would get to have 10 minutes in the panda enclosure, but the part where the pandas were actually viewable was more like 5 seconds. At least there were many different interesting posters concerning the panda around the zoo.
Even though people were given tickets to see pandas at the gate, it said a time when people could come.
There was an obvious lack of planning, because even though I arrived early, the people with my time slot (9:40-9:49) ended up getting into the Panda building about 45 minutes later.
As people enter, there is a lot of interesting information regarding pandas as the line winds through the panda building, but people are encouraged to keep moving rather than learn something. Zoo staff stood in the direct line of sight of the pandas, making quality photos difficult to take. The line went past the pandas several times, but the path that gave the best view downward into the panda exhibit was the one closest to the glass wall, so people behind the front row would not get a good view of the pandas at all. This was the best I could get from various locations in the building:
Upon going up to the top of the building, there are two gift shops with panda merchandise. I bought three books the size of magazines that were specific to the new pair of pandas. All the other books were books previously available here, at a significantly lower price. The quality of the plush toys left a lot to be desired. The only other items of interest included a panda phone that was too expensive and meant for a landline. I haven’t used a landline phone at home for nearly 10 years.
You might notice the building itself is huge, much larger than any panda enclosures I have been to in any other zoo, or indeed, even at the panda research bases in China. For all this, the area where the pandas actually were had a simple cement floor. There did not appear to be any actual living plants in the enclosure, and the ration of bamboo the pandas were eating was far smaller than that given to pandas elsewhere. In short, the panda building was designed to be large and as a sign of government power rather than something intended to accommodate its inhabitants. This is nothing new – the Taipei City Council has destroyed night markets building similarly poorly designed buildings.
Speaking of the City Council, the day really seemed to be more about politics. As much as I disagree with the DPP and their stances regarding pandas as a political issue, I can only agree after today. As we were walking into the panda exhibition hall, the Taipei Mayor (of the KMT) shook hands with people to get a photo opportunity. He pulled his hand back a bit when passing me (the obvious foreigner) but I shook his hand anyway. His handshake was weak. There were many Vietnamese in line (judging by the language spoken), but Mayor 郝龍斌 shook their hands more readily.
While the KMT is always saying that people should forget the politics and focus on how children like the pandas, it seems that the KMT are very much ignoring the needs of the pandas. Out of the 8 or so zoos and three panda research bases I have seen pandas, the Taipei Zoo definitely has the least-well thought out panda exhibition.
Although a smoking ban recently went into effect, there were people smoking throughout the zoo. I’d like something like this US law to take effect here, though Taiwan is not nearly as bad as Korea regarding smoking. Still, seeing as the politicians are only looking to score points, I thought I’d point out another area the KMT is failing to help the people in.
As I left, I noticed a panda tea party setup. After being so negative about the panda exhibit itself, I can say that the panda sculptures and non purchasable posters around the park were top notch.