So, as I write this, England has just gone into a second lockdown, and to be honest, I don’t think Scotland are far off a second one either. Wales are currently still in a lockdown and around the world, things just aren’t getting better. While a lockdown is definitely a good thing for the suppression of the coronavirus, it does raise a very important question for the zoological industry: what does the future hold?
This industry is still one that very much focuses on traditional marketing to get people visiting either their parks or their social media channels. In addition to this, most of these centres have links with educational institutes – mainly primary school age and younger – as a way to edu-tain the children. Several of the UK (or with links to the UK such as Bornean Orangutan Survival with sisters called BOS UK, BOS Australia etc) centres do also have TV shows which show the importance of rescue and rehabilitation for endangered species. See: Monkey Life, Orangutan Jungle School and Secret Life of the Zoo, which are based in Monkey World Ape Rescue Centre, BOS and Chester Zoo respectively.
Covid-19 and the local lockdowns have meant that all zoological centres have had to close at least once to the public. For most centres, it’s simply for the safety of the guests, but for centres which house great apes such as Monkey World Ape Rescue Centre, it is also for the safety of the primates in their care. Chimpanzees share 99% of our DNA, and orangutans are 96.7%, it is currently unknown if the coronavirus can pass on from humans to these other non-human primates, but it’s very highly probable.
To come back to the overarching question – what does the future look like for these centres, and more importantly, why is any of what I’ve said relevant? Allow me to explain.
The future is currently unknown, I’m sorry to disappoint, but this is a topic that I’m looking forward to looking into a lot more. In fact, it’s what I want to study and research into for my MSc Digital Marketing dissertation. I’ve been sat for a few months now watching what is going on (and trying to help where I could – by making donations and buying things from online gift shops) but given that there really is no set budget for digital content creation in these institutions, and given that visitor numbers are as far down as they can really go, there’s a lot of concern about how best to go about trying to save the industry and welcome it into a digital medium.
Looking at Monkey World Ape Rescue again as an example, a question they’ve recently posed to their audience on Facebook is whether anyone would pay for a subscription service for some content – which doesn’t seem appealing to their supporters, being that they themselves are also struggling financially. They’ve been conducting Zoom tours, and really trying their best to make the most of a bad situation. Another organisation – Sumatran Orangutan Survival also led Zoom quizzes as a way to try and hop online.
I wish I had some answers, but I’m working on it. I have some things in the pipeline that I’m trying to work on, and I’m hoping to have some posts up with the thoughts I’ve had on this situation. Meanwhile, why don’t we have a discussion about this? What do you think the future is going to be?
We will always need conservation, rehabilitation and rescue. And by working together we will be able to save it.
And also feel free to connect with me on my LinkedIn!
Until next time, be excellent to each other.