Every weekend, volunteer tour guides from the Tucheng Natural Landscape Protection Association walk around the Tucheng Aegiceras Park in New Taipei City’s (新北市) Tucheng District (土城), teaching visitors about the flora and fauna to promote an appreciation for the planet and nature — a cause the association has pursued for a decade.
Association director-general Wang Yueh-chiao (王月嬌) said that most people need a “mentor” to introduce them to the mysterious wonders of nature, which is why the association has adopted the mission to train nature tour guides.
The association trains volunteers in public speaking, clads them in bright green uniforms and dispatches them to the park, schools and organizations, hiking trails and tourist spots to enlighten visitors about their surroundings.
Photo: Chang An-chiao, Taipei Times, courtesy of the Tucheng Natural Landscape Protection Association
“Asking people not to litter has a very limited effect on environmental preservation. On the other hand, helping people to get to know nature nurtures their affection for the land they inhabit,” Wang said.
Wang said that when she started the group, many members cringed at the sight of insects and some did not understand what was so appealing about vast meadows.
However, once they spend time exploring nature’s wonders — like spiders’ intricate webs and butterflies hatching from pupae — they become so absorbed that time slips by unnoticed, she said.
In addition to introducing them to nature, she said that being a guide helps volunteers improve their interpersonal skills through engaging people in conversation.
Senior association member Hung Tsui-chin (洪翠琴) said that she could not help telling people about plants any time she sees someone observing them, which she says has helped her make new friends.
Hung said she was telling people on Yuan Mountain in New Taipei City’s Sansia District (三峽) about the Japanese clinging fern, Lygodium japonicum, which can be used as a scrubbing pad, when a woman shared her experience using the plant to wash dishes when she was young.
“Serving as a tour guide enables you to confirm things you read in books. You teach and learn, that is what is most fun about this job,” Hung said.
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