A botched exhibit on Formosan black bears at the Yushan National Park visitor center, which was brought to light on Friday last week, is a particularly egregious example of a government production gone wrong, but at this point it is nothing surprising — which is really embarrassing for Taiwan.
Recent examples that come to mind include the tragic English in Twitter posts by the Tourism Bureau and nonsensical translations of Chinese phrases in brochures for the Taipei Sightseeing double-decker bus.
Just visit any exhibition and it is almost guaranteed that there will be typos, misaligned graphics or other errors. These are things that will be seen by foreign visitors and cause people to question whether the government is serious about increasing its international presence.
Yes, not everything can be perfect, but the black bear fiasco is particularly shocking.
According to black bear expert Huang Mei-hsiu (黃美秀), who called the display “the worst exhibit on a bear I have ever seen,” not only was the model skeleton warped and completely devoid of an anatomical basis, the rest of the exhibition was rife with factual errors and oversimplified charts.
This is far more difficult to accept than poor English, as the national park is supposed to have expertise and access to the nation’s largest trove of information on Formosan black bears.
Taiwanese not only pay to see the exhibit, they also pay taxes to fund it. Now the government has to spend more money to review and correct the errors.
It is ironic that just a 15-minute drive away from the visitor center is the Taiwan Black Bear Educational Center, which opened last year as the first of its kind by the non-governmental Taiwan Black Bear Conservation Association. It not only has real, complete black bear skeletons, but also has a wealth of other items, including fur, droppings, paw prints and infrared cameras used to photograph the animals.
Why did the government spend money to create a redundant exhibition that became a massive embarrassment instead of promoting the educational center? Or, if it needed something in the exhibition hall at the visitor center, it could have collaborated with the education center and made use of its expertise to create a more meaningful exhibit.
The park office’s explanation is simply not acceptable. It said that no outside experts were consulted and it would review the display to make improvements.
Would any taxpayer be satisfied with that?
Government agencies should no longer be allowed to get away with such explanations. The park should explain why it did not consult an expert during the planning process nor check the finished product. Was it sheer laziness? Or was it cost cutting? Or did it have a shady deal with a contractor who simply did not have the expertise?
The public has the right to know.
Obviously the inspection process is broken and stricter requirements are needed, otherwise agencies appear only too eager to take the lazy route.
The public should demand answers and demand that better mechanisms be introduced, otherwise these kinds of incidents will continue.
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