Attn. Pichai Sakunsorn, zoo manager
Soi Pa Lai 2
Amphoe Mueang Phuket
Chang Wat Phuket 83130
Dear mr. Pichai Sakunsorn,
This letter is addressed to you but is also meant for the owner(s) of the Phuket Zoo.
Times are changing. In an era where climate change, desertification, plastic soups and loss of biodiversity are getting more headlines in newspapers than poverty and education, it seems a big mistake not to listen to what the world has to say.
Zoos, petting places and other venues where tigers are exploited, are more and more subjected to investigations, public inquiries and public harassment, getting more bad press in the media every day. The reason for this is explained in the opening of this letter: the tiger is a flagship species of biodiversity, and it’s getting more headlines than ever because the morality of the public on this subject is shifting. Shifting from people benefits to tiger benefits.
Zoos have been part of different human cultures for ages. We often forget that zoos started as educational institutions: to teach people about flowers and animals. However, due to many reasons, zoos became places of entertainment, abandoning their role as educators.
It is still possible to exploit animals, and even mistreat them, as we can see every day through new photographs and videos shared on the Internet. But an ever-increasing moral awareness on how to behave with animals and the expanded possibilities to expose cruel situations – even in your park – have led to the situation that even the biggest and best-equipped zoos in the world are under scrutiny from not only animal rights activists but from ordinary people as well.
More and more people no longer want to see animals caged or mistreated. They don’t want animals in shows anymore. They don’t want people to take selfies with tigers or other wild animals. They don’t want underfed animals. They don’t want animals in small cages or in chains. They want to see them in the wild. Properly cared for and protected against humans that want to kill them. And people demand transparency.
At the moment you are still able to earn money with the exploitation of your venture with tigers. Your company however is facing problems, and you know it well. You’re facing a big challenge because it is getting harder to attract visitors to your park. This is why you’re not only exploiting animals in cages but you are also doing things like petting-sessions for selfies, circus-like activities or even games with animals.
You are even using conservation as an excuse.
Due to the earlier mentioned changing awareness of people in the world – and, therefore, your visitors – your business model is at the end of its lifespan. Like circuses in Europe that can’t show wild animals anymore, which led to the bankruptcy of multiple circus companies because they couldn’t adopt to a shifting mentality of customers.
You know you can’t withstand this trend very much longer – also because the increasing petting of (mainly) tigers will unavoidably lead to (high) claims from foreigners that get a scratch – or even worse. Your liability waivers will not help you anymore because the best lawyers in the world will defend people that have been hurt or attacked by animals in your park.
There is a choice.
Either you maintain your way of working.
This means that in a couple of years people will stop visiting your park. Not only because in most countries the culture of visiting zoos like yours has changed, but also because of the fact that major tourist organizations like Trip Advisor, Expedia, Priceline, Qunar and even China’s Ctrip are ignoring you – or even warning against you (also because of increasing public pressure).
Even the current eagerness of people taking selfies with tigers or tiger cubs will change into shame sooner or later, as we already see it happening. This will ultimately lead to the disappearing of your key moneymaking attractions. And if they are gone, what else is left?
The result of maintaining your business without changing will result into even more (personal) stress, more public harassment, unwanted lawsuits, more tensions and in the end it will lead to an unavoidable bankruptcy.
…Or you take the other choice: change. How?
You can adapt to what people want and invest in innovation that can engage your customers in a way that you never thought was possible. Think about virtual reality. Think about 3D or even 4D. Think about holograms. But think about transparency too. You can start educating people (again) in a way that is unique in the world and create a business model that is ready for the future. You can even make money without lying to the world that money is spend on conservation.
This is the reason why we approach you like we do. We would like you to choose for the latter: adapt to a business model that can stand the changing awareness, that can live up to the changing needs of people and that can still be profitable.
You will not only make money because of your new, future-proof business model, but you will be recognized as an icon of change and an example to the world. National and international media will write about you in a positive way and the change that inspired so many other people that now own or manage zoos.
We call on you to invite us to have a talk about a program to transform your current outdated venture into a modern, profitable and future-proof business model.
With kind regards,
P.S. Because of our transparency policy we have shared this letter publicly, as well as your upcoming answer.
Founder of IATA Tiger News Platform
Partner of Fuenta – Consultancy Company, specialized in transforming businesses into purpose-driven networks.