Wednesday, September 22, 2021

A day ‘at the zoo’ in pandemic times

Like many other activities, even trips to the zoo must now be done online.

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With domestic tourism shuttered by the various lockdowns imposed since early last year and international tourism now nothing but a distant memory, tourist attractions are jumping on the virtual bandwagon and moving activities online in a bid to continue providing some semblance of the programmes they ran before the arrival of Covid-19.

The Department of Museums Malaysia, for example, has held several online exhibitions made available to the public on its portal.

The Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre in Sandakan, Sabah, meanwhile began organising virtual safari trips last year.

While the notion of embarking on a safari through a computer or phone screen may seem like something out of a sci-fi flick, the precautionary measures imposed across much of the country to curb the spread of Covid-19 have left tourist operators with little choice.

The Taiping Zoo recently held a virtual exhibition of its animals in an event streamed live on Facebook.

Its director Kevin Lazarus said the move to utilise Facebook was a step forward from the series of video broadcasts the zoo had made during the first movement control order (MCO) period last year.

“Last year, we didn’t do a live broadcast,” he told MalaysiaNow. “But when the MCO was reinstated, we thought why not do something similar to our programme last year?

“We decided to do a live broadcast and we got together the equipment and internet facilities that we would need to do this.”

Lazarus said the live broadcast which kicked off two weeks ago started with crocodiles as the main star of the show, followed by Malayan tigers in the following broadcast.

“There were 70,000 views for the first broadcast, and it reached 200,000 for the tigers.

“We post the broadcasts on Facebook and leave them there, so the views increase over time because people keep viewing,” he said.

Kevin Lazarus, the director of the Taiping Zoo, briefs employees on the zoo’s live broadcasts.

The zoo’s plan is to feature the bigger animals first before moving on to those that are smaller and more endangered.

Lazarus said the goal of showing the live videos is also to let the public know about the animals’ situation at the zoo.

“We are looking after them,” he said. “The zoo is fine and once things go back to normal, we can be back on site.”

The broadcasts are also to keep the zoo alive in the public eye, as it looks forward to reopening once the pandemic is brought under control.

Nurul Nafisah Mazlan, who followed the zoo’s broadcasts along with her children, said the programme was good for them as they could no longer leave the house.

“I heard about the broadcasts through a Telegram channel that promotes interesting places and programmes there,” she said.

“My children really enjoyed themselves. Even before the programme began, they were asking, ‘Has it started yet?'”

And when it did start, she said, they were fascinated. “When the camera panned around to show the zoo, they shouted and jumped around.”

She said the programme was a good alternative to allowing her children to watch cartoons all the time.

“The live streaming was also very smooth. The images were clear and the sound was good, with no lagging.”

But as good as the broadcasts are, nothing can beat the real thing, and Nafisah is now waiting to bring her family to the zoo once the pandemic subsides.

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