Taiwan rescue centre doubles as a popular zoo

Mon Oct 20, 2008 5:25am EDT
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By Ralph Jennings

PINGTUNG COUNTY, Taiwan (Reuters Life!) - Black bears claw their cages and glare at visitors at this daunting, one-of-a-kind animal center in Taiwan.

Captive male orangutans hoist barrels to appear bigger than men. Gibbons scream and macaques snatch the glasses off people's faces. A tortoise, given free rein, plods after visitors, sometimes munching their shoelaces.

But the humans in charge say these animals just want their two-legged, invitation-only visitors to know the shocking stories of how they ended up at the southern Taiwan facility: a rescue center for smuggled animals doubling as an educational zoo.

Among the stories: 16 tigers were abandoned by a Taiwan breeder whose business failed; two bears were mistakenly trapped; an orangutan was turned loose in downtown Taipei; and, a gibbon was thrown out of a Taiwan housing complex due to noise complaints.

The tortoise was dropped off outside the facility's gate.

Most animals were originally smuggled to Taiwan from Southeast Asia, and a few were taken illegally from forests on the island. They later became pets for Taiwan families who had no idea the pin-up baby furballs would grow up to be unmanageable adults.


"One day the smuggling will stop," said Yen Jen-teh, director-general of Taiwan's Forestry Bureau, after a visit this month.   Continued...

<p>A Formosa Macaque sits inside its cage at the Pingtung Rescue Center for endangered Wild Animals in Pingtung, southern Taiwan October 17, 2008. REUTERS/Ralph Jennings</p>