Skip to comments.'Fake Pandas' Joke Not Funny (China, Taiwan to War Over Fake Panda Incident?)
Posted on 04/04/2009 9:48:18 AM PDT by nickcarraway
A TAIWANESE newspaper's April Fools' Day story that two giant pandas gifted by China were fakes backfired as politicians and zoo officials failed to see the funny side.
The English daily Taipei Times ran a story on Wednesday's science section saying that the animals had been exposed as 'Wenzhou brown forest bears that had been dyed' to resemble pandas.
It also quoted a fictional zookeeper as saying that she became suspicious when the bears 'began to spend almost all of their waking hours having sex,' as pandas are known for their low sex drive.
'Their behavior caused chaos. Children screamed and parents became irate,' the keeper said.
The report also pretended to quote Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang as saying: 'We hope that our Taiwanese friends enjoy the gift of two extremely rare Wenzhou brown forest bears.' However, Taipei zoo director Jason Yeh was not amused and demanded a correction of the report he said had 'seriously damaged' panda conservation education.
'We urge the newspaper to correct this improper story as it sends the wrong message. The joke has gone too far which not only hurt its credibility but the conservation education,' Mr Yeh said on Friday.
The zoo had received dozens of phone calls locally and from abroad complaining about the article, he said.
Lawmaker Wu Yu-sheng of the ruling Kuomintang party also demanded the paper apologise for publishing an 'untrue and baseless' report.
The Taipei Times has defended its move, saying readers should be capable of telling a joke from the truth. 'April Fools' Day jokes highlight an important aspect of the consumption of media: that readers and viewers should keep a critical mind when they read stories or watch TV,' it said in a statement.
The on-line version of the story ended with the phrase 'Happy April Fools' Day!' and had received more than 22,000 hits as of Friday. The pandas, called Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan, were given to Taiwan in December as part of a series of measures by the two sides to ease tensions that have lasted since a civil war divided them in 1949
Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin wears a panda hat as he listens to the aspirations of an elementary school student at Taipei Zoo yesterday. PHOTO: LIN HSIANG-MEI, TAIPEI TIMES An April Fools prank published in the Taipei Times on Wednesday has drawn attention and started a debate amongst readers at home and abroad, with some saying they enjoyed the joke, some falling for it and laughing it off afterwards, and others who were not amused.
The hoax article titled Pandemonium breaks out at Taipei Zoo said that Tuan Tuan (團團) and Yuan Yuan (圓圓), the two pandas that arrived in December as gifts from China, were discovered to be Wenzhou brown forest bears dyed black and white after zoo workers noticed unusual sexual behavior.
The story was quickly posted on a number of blogs around the world and was even translated into Spanish. Although most readers identified it as an April Fools item, some fell for it.
On an online Singaporean forum, an Internet user with the screen name Daryl after several others users had identified the story as a hoax wrote: Huh? So which part is the April Fool?
Taiwan Friends of Tibet (TFOT) chairwoman Chow Mei-li (周美里) wrote on the online TFOT discussion forum that she had already printed the story to read before someone told her it was an April Fools hoax.
Replying to Chow, Freddy Lim (林昶佐), lead vocalist of the heavy metal band Chthonic, said a friend told him to check the news in the morning.
I almost ran home to print it out like Mei-li did. But then I remembered it was April Fools Day, Lim said.
International news media, including CNN, Time magazine and the Times, cited the Taipei Times story in their reports on Wednesday about April Fools pranks published by newspapers around the world.
Its April Fools Day when media outlets around the world take a break from the serious business of delivering news and play fast and furious with the facts, CNN said in its report.
However, not everyone was amused.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) yesterday called the story untrue and baseless and urged the Taipei Times to print an apology.
Taipei Zoo director Jason Yeh (葉傑生) did not see the funny side either and expressed concern about the pranks negative impact on panda conservation education.
The story carried incorrect information on panda behavior and could mislead the public, he said. The Taipei Zoo made a lot of effort to get the pandas at the zoo and we dont want to see our efforts being destroyed.
We understand the story was an April Fool, but I dont think the newspaper should risk damaging its credibility by carrying such story simply to make people laugh, he said.
On the other hand, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) yesterday seemed to get the joke.
When approached by reporters for comment on the story as he accompanied a group of students to visit the zoos Panda Hall, Hau said: Let me tell you, Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan are actually Taiwanese Formosa bears.
Geoffrey Davies, head of the journalism department at Londons University of Westminster, was quoted in the CNN report as saying that running an April Fool does not particularly affect a news outlets credibility.
They are done in such a way that you know its a joke, he was quoted as saying.
A statement issued by the Taipei Times said: Printing funny fake stories has a long tradition in Western media. Not only is it funny, it reminds people to read the news with a critical eye.
Running an April Fools Day prank is a tradition at the Taipei Times. In 2006, a prank story said the Ministry of National Defense had discovered a secret Taiwanese weapons program using chemicals extracted from chewed betel nuts. Back in 2005, then-vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) was the target of the joke in a story that said Lu was moved to tears after attending a concert by a singing camel.
So much kerfluffle about Chinese Bamboo Gobblers?
Uhhh...it lost something in the ....translation.
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