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Zoo celebrates Dragon Boat Festival with 'five evil animals'

2012/06/23 13:33:49

Taipei, June 23 (CNA) The Dragon Boat Festival, which falls on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month each year, is traditionally seen as a time when evil spirits are awakened, but the Taipei City Zoo wants to use the opportunity to educate the public about these so called "heinous" animals long misunderstood in traditional Chinese culture.

Snakes, scorpions, centipedes, toads and geckos-- also known as the "five poisons"--- were believed in ancient Chinese culture to be evil and thought to rule over unfortunate human beings during the festival.

But the zoo now wants to break the myth by holding an exhibition featuring the not-so-adorable creatures from now until July 15 to raise awareness and to protect the animals.

Zoo spokesman Chao Ming-chieh said that the myth stems from the fact that people were more prone to diseases and pestilence during the fifth lunar month, but that was no fault of the animals. It was natural that illnesses would be more prevalent during this month because of the summer heat and humidity brought by the frequent rain at this time of the year.

The lack of refrigerators, advanced medical care and adequate sanitation facilities in the old days also fueled the spread of diseases, for instance through food and garbage rotting, Chao said.

"These creatures are often wrongly seen as a threat to human beings because of their appearances or habits, but the truth is we don't have sufficient knowledge about them," he said.

To familiarize people with the creatures, Chao said nearly 80 species that fit into the poisonous category will be on display at the zoo's Amphibian and Reptile House.

Chao said the exhibition will feature animals such as the brown spotted pit vipers, emperor scorpions, Asian common toads, Chinese red-headed centipede, Mexican red knee tarantula-- and some Tokay geckos.

But in organizing the special exhibit, the zoo staff faced a challenge, as geckos are not poisonous, Chao said.

"After some thought, we decided to use spiders to substitute for geckos," he said.

Besides being able to see the creatures up close, zoo visitors will also be able to learn about them through educational tours, which will be provided by experts of reptiles and arthropods.

(By Lee Hsin-Yin)