Sunday, June 22, 2008

Different Perspectives of the Taiwan and the World

view of the world

An interesting set of maps depicting various views of Taiwan and the world from both Taiwan's perspective and the American one.

Press the link to view... You'll need a little Chinese to understand but then you can do that, can't you?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Orangutan Alert and Other Strange House Pets

This one falls in the I kid you not category...

I was teaching apologies and excuses to my students. I gave an example of a lousy excuse:
"I really wanted to but I had to look after my pet monkey."

Being Canadian, I thought this was really ridiculous and far-fetched. One student looked perplexed though. I asked her what was up and she said that, in fact, her neighbor across the street actually had a monkey.

"Are you sure?", I asked.

"Yeah, it's orange."

Orangutan immediately came to mind. I probed a little further but she started to become quiet after I mentioned that orangutans where banned as pets (and in Taipei city no less!!!).

So that got me thinking about a newscast I had seen years earlier showing an orangutan pet being dragged away from an old lady. She was really upset and had obviously developed a strong bond with the animal, much as if it were another child.

Googling the topic of orangutans I came across this:

"It is estimated that about 1,000 baby orangutans were smuggled to Taiwan from Kalimantan on Borneo between 1985 and 1990 and sold as exotic pets. This accounts for at least a 10% decline in the wild population (this percentage includes all those that were killed or died in the smuggling and poaching process; a conservative estimate of over 3,000 animals). The reason for this surge in orangutans as pets was a result of a popular Taiwanese television program that featured a live orangutan as the perfect pet and companion. As a result the demand was met through smuggling and poaching. Eventually the cute and cuddly orangutans grow up and become unmanageable. Many have suffered from neglect, poor nutrition and serious health problems such as tuberculosis and hepatitis B. A few lucky ones were returned to Indonesian rescue centers for rehabilitation and reintroduction into the wild.

In 1990 the government of Taiwan passed a law making it illegal for orangutans to be kept as pets and most have been confiscated and sent to rescue and centers such as Pingtung Rescue Centre for Endangered Wild Animals in Taiwan ."


What's this? There are still orangutans in Taiwan as pets? How do you hide something that big?

I got my answer reading an account:

"A TV show in Taiwan made them one of the country's most popular pets, but Taiwan is acting to end the cruel trade in young orangutans. [....]

This is a business which thrives in many parts of Asia, but one country, Taiwan, has decided to end the illegal pet trade. It's banned the keeping of exotic animals as pets and hopes to confiscate, then rehome, every monkey living in a Taiwanese home.

[ASIDE JOKE: I personally know a lot of monkeys that are living in Taiwanese homes. Ha Ha!]

'I flew to the Pingtung Rescue Centre last week, to watch as the animals were prepared for travel. Eight gibbons, including two 'Concolours', one of the rarest species in the world, and four female orangutans - an adult Roro, and three girls, nicknamed the 'amigos', were selected to come to Britain first. Before travelling they all have to pass medical tests and be cleared of TB, hepatitis B and Herpes Simplex - all diseases that monkeys risk catching from man.

[ASIDE JOKE: "Honestly I didn't know it was bad to kiss the orangutan with a cold sore..."]

While preparations were underway at Pingtung, word came through that another orangutan has been found in central Taiwan, living with a family in a temple. The orangutan was fourteen year old Mai-Mai, who had spent most of her life eating and sleeping with her owners. She's now too big for them to handle and is confined to a cage. The family was reluctant to give her up, but the Pingtung staff convinced them, in due course, that what Mai-Mia needed was outdoor space and a mate. '

Back at Pingtung, four baby gibbons, barely a year old, have been handed in by customs. They were confiscated by a smuggler from Vietnam who was hoping to sell them to the pet trade and amusement arcades. The gibbons are orphans, their parents having been killed during capture, despite the fact that they are highly endangered. They cannot go back to the wild once separated from their families and will need to be found permanent homes. "


Just to think, all this orangutan mess was caused by a TV show (Think: What was the name of that movie with Clint Eastwood and the orangutan?).

On another note, the World Wildlife Federation had this to say:

"An estimated 1,000 orangutans may have been imported into Taiwan for the pet trade between 1985 and 1990. It is thought that for each orangutan reaching Taiwan, as many as three to five additional animals die in the process."

One blogger even suggest that their may have been more orangutans in Taiwan than in Malaysia, their native land, at one point!

Just how many more recluse orangutans are out there anyhow?

I think the whole story is indicative of Taiwanese attitudes towards pets. Tastes can go to the exotic. And there is also the later neglect aspect.

I have seen people with wild boars in cages outside their homes. In fact, I saw one not one block away from the Presidential Palace in Taipei chained up in front off the sidewalk of a sports store by its owner. When I asked, they said they had raised it from when it was a piglet.

blog entry about boar

There have been a few stories recently about overweight or aggressive pigs as well roaming the streets and causing trouble.

taipei times

china post

Apparently "Pet trends come and go in Taiwan" according to doses of Hollywood or otherwise. No one would doubt the Taiwanese fascination with Huskies although they are ill-suited for Taiwan's hot weather. However, there are other examples...

taipei times

Anyone have any other strange stories of Taiwanese house pets?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Looking for a bare bones gym?

Don't need any extras like towels, pool, soap etc? JJ Sports may just be the thing for you.

Admittedly I have been looking for a new gym since the demise of Alexander. I realized too that I can get a decent workout in about an hour. Their rates are very decent:

$50/hr (you get a receipt stamped with the time)
No membership fee or registration

$3500/season (3 months)
Membership card

If you use the pool, their are different fees.

I, however, never really used Alexander's pool anyway, mainly due to the ridiculous bathing cap rule. If you didn't know already, all people must wear bathing caps in Taiwan pools, even outside. Besides I prefer swimming in the ocean to the chlorine of the pool (although by Taiwanese hygiene standards, I can't guarantee all pools or hot tubs have the right pool chlorine level, if any).

The gym is large and well lit with a high ceiling. It's not busy during the daytime either. All the Alexander machines were accounted for. There are also free weights. There's a large area with mats. All people using the gym need a towel to wipe down the machines before entering. If you forget, towels can be rented for $10 with a deposit (leave your ID card) at the door.

From the gym there's a great view on one side of the CKS Memorial Hall.

Other parts of the building house the pool and courts I believe. There are flyers that detail the various classes offered at the center as well. I wasn't really interested in those either since they never seem to fit my schedule.

There's a Seattle coffee store on the first floor with food as well. Free scooter parking in the underground parking (!) and outside the front door.

It's a BOT (Build Operate Transfer) company sports center run for Taipei City.

Well worth the price and convenient with the options.

JJ Sports
ZhongZhen Sports (across from CKS Memorial Hall)

View Larger Map

Pain at the pump

Here we are. Fill 'em up and read it and weep.

I filled the tank on the scooter the other day. It was almost running on fumes. The cost $220!

This is truly amazing considering I used to fill up for a mere $80. Imagine what it costs to fill up a car.

Hopefully the Taiwanese, especially in big cities, will give up their love affair with their cars. There are far too many SUVs, jeeps, land rovers and vans in the city.

As for me, $220 is still affordable considering the convenience that a scooter offers. I don't feel so bad considering it is also fairly fuel efficient for the cost. I only have to fill up maybe every 2 weeks.

The logo is that of the China Petroleum Corporation. It's actually a decent logo. What's neat about it is that it incorporates the Chinese characters for the company inside the picture at the base of the torch. For a variation of the logo, go to my web pal's site, The Real Taiwan.

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