TAIPEI – The Taipei Zoo has received four rare, naturally formed marimo moss balls on loan from the city of Kushiro, Hokkaido, in Japan’s first such arrangement through cooperative conservation programs, zoo officials said on Monday.
The city has lent a total of seven marimo to the Taipei Zoo since the two sides signed a memorandum of understanding in December 2017.
The latest four, which arrived last week, are bigger than the previous three, which were artificially cultivated. The biggest is about 10 centimeters in diameter.
The officials said the new loan indicates that Kushiro is happy with the care that the zoo has given to the previous ones and that bilateral cooperation on conservation efforts has progressed.
The moss balls, a form of green algae that grow in cold water with low or indirect lighting, form naturally in a round shape and are native to Lake Akan in Kushiro, where they are designated as a national treasure and believed to bring good luck.
They are also found in some parts of Europe and Iceland, where they are considered endangered and are protected.
The seven marimo are kept in a special tank at the zoo’s Amphibian and Reptile House. The tank is designed to provide an environment similar to their natural habitats in Japan, with cold, clean and moving water.
Zookeeper Ellick Yang said naturally formed marimo can exceed 20 cm in diameter, though it takes a long time because they grow an average of 0.5 cm annually.
Taipei and Kushiro, which has a municipal zoo of its own, have had a close relationship since 2011, when Kushiro loaned a pair of red-crowned cranes to Taipei Zoo.
The species, designated as a special national natural treasure, is a symbol of longevity and marital love in Japan. The rare birds are leased for an indefinite period as part of an academic exchange to study whether they can breed in an environment with different food and climate.
The zoo opened a newly renovated enclosure for the birds on Sunday, with more space and a more comfortable environment, amid hopes that they will breed next year.