NST Leader: Innovate or face closure

Like the rest of the country, Zoo Negara is feeling the pinch brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic and is left with only a few months before all its funds are gone. - NSTP/EFFENDY RASHID

Like the rest of the country, Zoo Negara is feeling the pinch brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic and is left with only a few months before all its funds are gone. – NSTP/EFFENDY RASHID

ZOO Negara has been sitting proudly on nearly 45ha of prime land in Ulu Klang since November 1963.

It has, through many ups and downs over the years, received both bouquets and brickbats alike.

One thing, though, has remained constant: it is a popular destination for schoolchildren and families.

Now, however, Zoo Negara is facing its biggest challenge. Like the rest of the country, the zoo is feeling the pinch brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic and is left with only a few months before all its funds are gone.

Zoo Negara is not a government entity. It is a private initiative managed by the Malaysian Zoological Society.

The government has provided funds over the years, but as the Energy and Natural Resources Ministry says, zoos are business entities and cannot forever rely on government funding. Zoo Negara, of course, is not alone.

Zoos the world over are facing the same problem. With no revenue from visitors,there are concerns about feeding the animals. Many governments have begun emergency funds for zoos.

The British government is one, although some reports say its emergency fund is restrictive in its requirements.

Even the world famous San Diego Zoo is facing problems and has applied for federal funding under the United States government’s Paycheck Protection Programme.

Some reports say some zoos may have to slaughter some of the animals to feed others.

Thankfully,nothing like that has happened yet. The pandemic will not go away for a while yet and even when it does, there is always the threat of a different one in the future.

What is needed are long-term solutions. Governments are bogged down by efforts to assist every level of society as all but some businesses are operating at losses. This is where the private sector must step in, to fund upkeep, research and set up gene banks. Financial institutions are one possibility.

They can sponsor or adopt some animals. Maybank and CIMB used to do just that, why not revisit the idea? Maybank’s mascot and logo, after all, is a tiger.

Take London Zoo for example. It receives no state funding, relying on membership and entrance fees as well as sponsorship. In August, Barclays offered a £20 million loan to the zoo for maintenance and upkeep.

The digital age has also given us another opportunity: crowdfunding. One zoologist says crowdfunding could encourage big companies to adopt animals. Such pledges could commit the companies to a monthly upkeep of several of the animals. Zoos should also engage the public.

Get their views so they can be involved in the process and have a chance to “own” some of the animals.

By allowing large numbers of people to individually invest in small amounts in ventures, such as giving schoolchildren maximum access to the zoo for field trips, especially children from rural areas, and discounts on entrance fees for people with special needs and the less fortunate, Zoo Negara will ensure even more support.

If people feel they are involved, they will take pride in doing what they can to save the zoo. In other countries, it has been reported that zoos have found creative ways to stay afloat, from live streaming to virtual fundraising.

What Zoo Negara should consider then, is innovate or face the possibility of closure.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/leaders/2020/11/642989/nst-leader-innovate-or-face-closure

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