Zoos are thriving once more

Animal attraction: More people have been visiting Zoo Negara in Kuala Lumpur since Covid-19 restrictions were eased. — MUHAMAD SHAHRIL ROSLI/The Star

PETALING JAYA: With the easing of Covid-19 restrictions, Malaysians are now more “at ease” with taking their families to local zoos, with streams of visitors queueing to see their favourite animals.Operations are almost back to normal for Taiping Zoo, which has recorded over 300,000 visitors since the start of the year.

Taiping Zoo and Night Safari director Dr Kevin Lazarus said the easing of restrictions enabled more people to visit zoos.

“When visitors don’t need to scan MySejahtera before purchasing tickets, they don’t have to wait in line for too long, so more people are visiting the zoo,” he said.

“We have been receiving quite a number of visitors since we reopened in October last year but now, we are receiving even more, so we are indeed recovering.”

He added that Taiping Zoo, which is home to 1,200 specimens from 140 species, is state-funded and not severely hit by the pandemic.

“We had some concerns but we received a lot of support and contributions from various parties.

“There was a period where we could operate in 2020 and 2021, so we were able to stay afloat,” he said.

Over at Zoo Negara, pandas are the main attraction apart from the 275 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fishes.

Its deputy president Rosly @ Rahmat Ahmat Lana said the foot traffic at the zoo was “encouraging”, adding that there was a 20% increase in visitors during the festive season.

The zoo also saw an increase in foreign visitors as the country reopened its borders.

“Visitors are indeed increasing. We are definitely on the road to recovery now with people queueing in front of the zoo since morning,” he said.

Even during this year’s fasting month, the national zoo received about 300 to 500 visitors, a positive trend compared to pre-pandemic days where they used to see less than 100 visitors a day.

Since the revenue stream for the zoo comes from gate collection, Rosly said they have yet to recover fully and still need donations to keep afloat.

Farm in The City, a popular petting zoo in Seri Kembangan, Selangor, is receiving more than 2,000 visitors on weekends after the ease in restrictions.

“After April 1, we are definitely recovering and are receiving about 1,000 visitors on a weekday and about 2,000 to 3,000 on weekends.

“This is equal to about a 20% increase compared to last year’s visitors, and most of them are locals,” a spokesman said.

Farm in The City, he added, charmed its visitors by being the first petting zoo to house alpacas in Malaysia, apart from having other exotic animals such as crested porcupines and marmosets.

He added that since the farm relies on ticketing revenue, they were hit hard by the pandemic and pivoted to paid virtual visits, adoptions from the public to raise funds to feed the animals and selling their souvenir store’s products via Facebook Live.

“Now, we are slowly recovering. We haven’t reached the same level as before Covid-19 but we will be able to get back on our feet soon,” he said.

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