1993 / 7月
Teng Sue-feng /tr. by Phil Newell
Knowing that the Wild Bird Rescue Station needed volunteers, Kao Kang-min, who works at the Taipei City Zoo in Mucha, couldn't shirk her duty to join the ranks, and in a short space of time had 14 animals staying at her residence.
In the apartment that Kao Kang-min rents in Mucha, there is a red-headed tree babbler in the bathroom, a flying squirrel and two collared Scops owls on the porch, a slaty-legged crake in the kitchen, and four lost dogs. Every day when she gets back from work she is welcomed by a house full of animals.
She sees herself as having her destiny tied up closely with animals. Before coming to work in Taipei, she raised a bulbul in her home in Tainan. It would join the people at the table for each meal, chewing its way through each course, with a special taste for fish and meat.Fussy eaters:
She has been raising the flying squirrel ever since she bought it at a night market four years ago while she was in college. Today it has become a bit of a spoiled fussbudget, only eating President brand pudding while turning its nose up at the competition.
As for the two owls recently brought home from Dr. Chi Wei-lien, each day she feeds them small fish, bread, meat, and pig's liver. Fearing the birds will become bored by monotonous food, the diet must be varied. It seems no different than raising a small child.
"In the past I would spend a lot of time with the animals I had taken in. Later on I realized that I shouldn't allow them to become too dependent on me, and that I shouldn't spoil animals that could be released into the wild." This is because the best way to care for wild animals is still to allow them to return to their original environment. Although her studies in horticulture have little connection to zoology, working in a zoo means that she has a lot of resources around her, and that she has been able to ask coworkers about things she didn't understand. In this way she has gradually gone from being an outsider to being an insider.
One cuckoo injured in a car accident that she took in from Dr. Chi spat up blood when she fed it something. She instinctively felt it must indicate an internal injury, and after discussing things with Dr. Chi, fed it "Yunnan cabbage," a kind of herbal medicine, after which all was well.
"Dr. Chi said that there is currently no medication available to stop internal bleeding in birds, but don't animals all have the ability to look for medicinal plants in the wild to cure themselves?" Perhaps the technique was not exactly right, but she feels that no possibility should be overlooked when dealing with a seriously injured bird. "We can only lend it a helping hand; the other ninety percent depends on its will to live."Happiness through living:
Recently the red-headed tree babbler was successfully released into the wild by a coworker. During the time she was caring for it, because it has to eat every two hours, it would go back and forth with her whenever she went to Tainan. The bird was later released into the wild, but every day she went out near her office and called it. "I called for a week straight just to see how it was getting on, but later I just gave up."
The volunteers at the bird shelter get absolutely no compensation, and in fact "the costs of feeding are borne ourselves." To help the center, one must also absorb the costs of the food, and that's no chicken feed: "I thought I was going to go bankrupt when I was raising two little egrets." One catty of small fish, which only lasts two days, can run about NT$360 (over US$14). With the other animals, she was laying out several thousand NT dollars a month.
"Mom wanted me to go back to open a flower shop," but she paid no heed. This is because she could always earn more money, and "it's really worth it when a life in my hands can carry on," she says.
Moreover, this commitment is not without its own rewards. For example, when the condition of the birds she raises improves, she releases them in the fields around the zoo. sometimes when she opens a window and calls, there is a responding call. "They still remember me" is what she thinks.
(right) This collared Scops owl taken in by Kao Kang-min needs only a little retraining in searching for food and it can return to the wild. (left) Who knows where the red-headed tree babbler has gone with its buddles. (photos by Cheng Yuan-ching)