Penguin egg beats politicians for vote of Taipei residents

The China Post staff

Annoyed by seemingly endless political squabbling and financial woes, local residents have turned their attention to two King penguins in the Taipei Zoo, each of which laid an egg in the past week. Tens of thousands of residents, including those from outside Taipei, have visited the Taipei Zoo since the first penguin was reported to have laid an egg on July 21. In order to watch the penguins, many parents and adults queued in kilometer-long lines for several hours just for a 20-second glimpse. Asked why they would want to wait so long to have such a brief look at the penguins, a number of them responded that they could take a temporary flight from reality by watching the penguins. “I can tell you why I do that. My kids want to see them. That’s one reason,” said a machine tool importer, who only gave his last name of Tsai. “The second reason is that it helps divert my attention away from the headaches of paycuts and a receding economy,” he said. Housewife Chang Hsueh-erh said the penguins provide a pleasant distraction from endless political wranglings between the government and the opposition. “Watching the penguins with their eggs is better than watching the ugly fights between Chen Shui-bian’s government and opposition parties,” she said. When asked why he was still curious even though it was not the first time the penguins at the Taipei Zoo laid eggs, Mr Huang, who lost his job two months ago, said he had nothing else to do and had plenty of time. “Why can’t I come here? After all it is a nice way to spend a day,” said Huang who was a little irritated. The Taipei Zoo welcomed the new addition of a baby king penguin last year when one of the four penguins it imported from Japan laid an egg. But the unhatched embryo died after being slung onto hard ground several times during fights between the penguin parents. The incident not only crushed the dreams of penguin-crazed children, but also deepened the frustration of a number of grown-ups. Psychologists say at a time of recession, when people are troubled by unwanted political and economic instability, the penguin and its egg would be absurdly translated into a kind of blind hope. When the unhatched embryo died, there vanished the hope, the psychologists said. They said bleak economic conditions and political instability have alienated public trust in the government. Taiwan is expected to see a record low economic growth of slightly more than 2 percent this year, in sharp contrast to the 6 percent growth it had last year.