Thu, Sep 19, 2019 - Page 2 News List

Jiji train sets off with leopard cat design

ILLUSTRATION ‘SURPRISE’:Any controversy over the leopard cat drawings let Taiwan form a bond with Russia and possibly gain a new tourism ambassador

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter, in Jiji Township, Nantou County

Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung, left, and Russian illustrator Katya Molodtsova pose beneath one of Molodtsova’s leopard cat illustrations on a themed train at Jiji Station in Nantou County yesterday.

Photo: Liu Pin-chuan, Taipei Times

The Tourism Bureau yesterday unveiled a themed train in Nantou County’s Jiji Township (集集), despite controversy over the leopard cat illustrations used in the design.

The themes on the train, designed to promote tours to the area, highlight elements that represent Nantou County, such as the banana farming industry.

However, when the train was first unveiled to the public on Aug. 20, netizens wrote that the illustrations onboard the train were of leopards, not leopard cats.

The designer, Chiang Meng-chih (江孟芝), later said that her team had purchased the illustration through an online photo gallery, instead of drawing the leopard cats themselves, and the bureau asked her team to come up with three illustrations that accurately depict leopard cats.

Russian illustrator Katya Molodtsova, who had drawn the illustrations bought online, heard of the controversy and the plight of the endangered leopard cats, and she volunteered to draw them for the bureau free of charge.

Minister of Transportation and Communications Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) thanked her for her generosity and, at his invitation, Molodtsova arrived in Taiwan on Monday.

The launching of the train is significant in three ways, Lin said at yesterday’s ceremony.

First, as the nation is soon to observe the 20th anniversary of the 921 Earthquake, all taking the train could witness how Jiji has been rebuilt over the past 20 years, Lin said.

Second, the train promotes railway tourism, Lin said, adding that the Jiji branch line is the longest in the Taiwan Railways Administration system and the system’s first line turned into a tourism railway.

Third, the train combines railway tourism with the conservation of nature and endangered species, Lin said.

Lin called the controversy over the illustrations a “surprise,” saying that the nation was able to form a special bond with Russia because of it.

“We hope that Miss Katja can be the nation’s tourism ambassador in Russia, as she can tell the people what she has seen and experienced in Taiwan and the tourist attractions she’s visited,” Lin said, adding that Molodtsova had joined a bike tour around Sun Moon Lake (日月潭).

Russian tourists can spend up to three weeks in Taiwan without needing a travel visa, Lin told reporters in an interview, adding that there would soon be charter flights between Taipei and Moscow, as well as Vladivostok.

Molodtsova’s visit could serve as an initial exchange between Taiwan and Russia, Lin said.

The bureau would soon have officials stationed in Moscow to promote tours to Taiwan, he said.

Asked if Molodtsova had accepted the invitation to become Taiwan’s tourism ambassador in Russia, Lin said that it is still being discussed.

The leopard cats are the biggest winners in all of this, as more people now know about their plight as an endangered species, Lin said.

Molodtsova attended the train ceremony and has also been invited to attend the opening of a railway tourism school in Checheng (車埕), a town about 10km east of Jiji. Both Jiji and Checheng are accessible by the Jiji branch line.

Molodtsova’s leopard cat illustrations and Chiang’s designs were used to decorate the train.

Molodtsova told reporters in Checheng that it took her one-and-a-half days to complete the illustrations.

She said she had seen a lot of videos and photographs of the endangered species and read information about it before doing the drawings.

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