One of the consequences of the current COVID restrictions has been the incredibly swift rise of the computer meeting application Zoom.
It has rapidly become the tool the world uses for corporate meetings, online gatherings, graduations and more. Consequently, Zoom has become one of the hottest stocks on the planet. The Happy Ali team frequently uses Zoom for our meetings spanning three continents.
Another and much less happy consequence of the restrictions on travel and meetings has been the effect on the world’s zoos and wildlife sanctuaries. Animals cannot be told to pack up and work from home. Whatever the circumstances, they must be fed, watered and cared for even when there is no tourist income.
At Australia’s Fraser Wildlife Sanctuary volunteers are bringing in food to feed the animals, some even spending their government grants to keep the wildlife alive.
Animal charity Free the Bears cares for 200 rescued black bears in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Now with visitor numbers having completely disappeared, they have zero income.
Says Rob Mabin, communications manager, ‘This is a massive blow to us. There is absolutely no hope for any in-country funding. We face a massive shortfall.’
They have also been forced to repatriate two Australian experts in the care of the bears and are now looking for people to ‘adopt’ a bear.
Other wildlife sanctuaries rely on government handouts, street collections or have tried crowd-funding. A zoo in Germany has even discussed the unthinkable. Should they not receive funds soon then they are discussing feeding some of the animals to others.
In Thailand, some 85 elephant camps have been forced to close. To feed and care for an elephant costs around US$18,000 per year, an amount impossible to sustain without visitor income. Most of them have been forced to simply release their elephants back into the jungle.
Now, an elephant sanctuary in northern Thailand has come up with a truly out-of-the-box idea. Why not have an elephant join in your next Zoom meeting?
The idea is the brainchild of the Human Elephant Learning Programme (HELP) Foundation, together with the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation and Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp and Resort.
As they can no longer rely on income from visitors enjoying programmes like the Walking With Giants experience (where you take a stroll with one of the elephants) they are now offering various virtual interaction experiences with any of their 23 elephants.
For as little as US$75 you can have an elephant in your Zoom. Literally. An elephant will appear in one of the boxes in your next Zoom conference. You can also get an introduction to caring for elephants or a Q and A session with one of their experts.
‘The timing and composition of this experience are absolutely flexible,’ says John Roberts, group director of Anantara sustainability and conservation.
So maybe you can turn your next Zoom meeting into a Zoo meeting? As Happy Ali CEO Arthur Koeman wittily quipped: “Is this an example of multi-tusking?”
Hero Pic credit: Unsplash by Photographer Mylon Ollila