Top News Malaysia’s extended lockdown puts eco-tourism attractions in precarious state By S Puvaneswary / Posted on 5 August, 2021 15:56 The ongoing Movement Control Order (MCO) 3.0 in Malaysia, enforced since June 1, has put eco-tourism operators in distress, as their main source of income, the collection of entrance fees, continues to be disrupted by extended closures. Most are digging into their own coffers for maintenance. With the closure of Farm in the City in Seri Kembangan Selangor, KL Tower Mini Zoo and The Bentong Farm in Pahang, the three parks are now largely dependent on the company’s savings to care for over 200 species of animals in residence. Care for the animal residents at Farm in the City in Seri Kembangan Selangor, KL Tower Mini Zoo and The Bentong Farm in Pahang is being funded by company savings and supportive members of the public Y Rajagopal, general manager (business development and marketing), who represents the parks, said help had also streamed in from well-wishers who contributed food for the animals. To ensure self-sustenance, The Bentong Farm has started to grow fruits and vegetables, mainly to feed the animals in all three parks, but is also selling mangosteens and rambutans to cover operational costs. A month ago, Farm in the City started selling online tours. While these helped with income, earnings are not big, shared Rajagopal. Rajagopal told TTG Asia: “The uncertainty of not knowing when the parks will be able to reopen hampers the planning of manpower needs and marketing efforts.” The Habitat Penang Hill has been relying on generous shareholders for survival. According to managing director, Allen Tan, the upkeep of the 7.3-hectare park costs hundreds of thousands of ringgit monthly. He described the uncertainty of not knowing when the MCO would end as “crippling”. Since the start of the pandemic, The Habitat Penang Hill has initiated cost cutting measures, including right sizing its staff. Said Tan: “We are now working on half the size we used to have. Moving forward, everyone will be expected to do more multi-tasking.” The company is also looking at alternative revenue streams away from the usual park activities. This includes building an e-commerce and lifestyle platform to sell The Habitat products, while at the same time promoting sustainability through the sales of sustainably-sourced products. Another revenue stream is to offer nature activities and tours under The Habitat brand where The Habitat Foundation has projects. Said Tan: “We hope to inspire people to reconnect with nature while at the same time promoting sustainable tourism, education and research.” Tropical Spice Garden is calling on the public to help sustain the green sanctuary Penang’s other popular eco-tourism attraction, the Tropical Spice Garden (TSG), is also in dire straits. It launched on August 1 a crowdfunding campaign, Join the Family, Save the Garden, to raise the vital funds it needs to remain operational. Funds would primarily come through subscription to its community-powered garden membership programme, Spice Fam, although donations from the public are also accepted. The membership is priced at RM25 (US$5.90) per month. Katharine Chua, owner and managing director of TSG, said: “Because of Covid, our doors have been open and shut for the last 16 months, and our existence is hanging by a thread. “Although we’ve always prided ourselves on running a sustainable business, one that is environmentally-conscious and places people at its heart, nothing could have prepared us for this challenge. So, we urgently need the community’s support to help keep this garden open for future generations to come.” Chua emphasised that the Spice Fam subscription is TSG’s “lifeline to stay open” and to allow it to reopen once the lockdown is over. “We want to be able to continue to share this unique and special place which does so much for bringing the community together, nurturing a love for nature and educating young and old alike. And in this new normal, now more than ever, we need green, healing spaces. Every cent raised will go into maintaining the Garden and growing the Spice Fam community,” Chua said.