Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman’s Rubber Duck in Greater Kaohisung has been causing quite a stir around the country, but Taipei Zoological Foundation secretariat division head Chang Tung-chun (張東君) has been using the rubber duck in annual events as a means to promote awareness of Jingmei River’s (景美溪) ecology for 10 years.
Born in 1964, Chang’s father, Chang Kun-hsiung (張崑雄), was a marine ecologist and the head of the Academia Sinica’s Zoology Research Department.
Chang Tung-chun said she became enamored with zoology ever since she received King Solomon’s Ring by Konrad Lorenz in 1949 as her five-year-old birthday gift.
After graduating from the National Taiwan University’s Institute of Zoology, Chang Tung-chun studied at Kyoto University before returning to Taiwan and devoting herself to promote zoology.
In 2004, Chang Tung-chun submitted plans to the Forestry Bureau for the Jingmei Riverside Wetlands Animal Society Protection and Promotion Project, in which she proposed working with the volunteer community patrols to monitor water quality for the river, and also floating yellow rubber ducks down the Jingmei River at dawn during the Mid-Autumn Festival.
In the past, the Jingmei riverside had been filled with an assortment of plants and was teeming with all sorts of wildlife, Chang Tung-chun said, adding that in the past decade or so the river has become increasingly polluted by industrial wastewater.
With the decline in water level, the river is now polluted, Chang Tung-chun said.
“To get the residents to care for the river, you have to first get them to interact with it,” Chang Tung-chun said, adding that floating yellow rubber ducks down the river would let residents’ eyes become riveted on the ducks, watching how they flip, twist and turn in the river and in so doing observe the river itself.
“It offers a chance for a closer inspection of the microecology of the river itself, to notice details such as dead fish or trash in the river that normally passes by,” she said.
Commenting on her decision to choose the yellow rubber duck to float down the river, Chang Tung-chun said it was because yellow was a bright color and very eye-catching, adding that it was also an item that could be purchased in bulk easily.
Chang Tung-chun said the rubber ducks were purchased from Taiwanese manufacturers and not from China, adding that she specifically told the manufacturers that money was not a problem, so long as they delivered high-quality products, as she intended the toys to be given out to participants at the event.
The event is to start with participants being led along the upper, middle and lower parts of the river and testing for acidity, Chang Tung-chung said, adding that she and others would also introduce participants to any species of animal that they happen to come across.
The yellow ducks would be put into the water under the Wanshou Bridge (萬壽橋) and float down the river for approximately 1km, before they are collected by a net strung up in position beforehand, she said.
Chang Tung-chun said there were always some small obstacles to cross every year when they hold the event, adding that the event had almost been canceled this year due to Typhoon Usagi, but had gone ahead only because there was a former combat diver in the community team who could help gather up all the ducks.
Chang Tung-chun said that she hoped to continue the event next year and she hoped everyone can think of floating ducks down the river during the Mid-Autumn Festival instead of just barbeques, adding that she hoped that everyone who joined her may begin to contemplate what they can do for Taiwan’s rivers.