Flag Day Poser 2: How come private corporation Singapore Zoo gets funds from charity?

While everybody should read the small-print before giving to any flag day, the curious case of the Singapore Zoo, a private corporation,

receiving funds from its “donation-collecting sidekick Wildlife Conservation Singapore Fund (WCSF) on Flag Day 26 Aug 2007 wails for scrutiny.

Here’s a news report about the state of the Singapore Zoo’s finances in The New Paper, Wednesday, 12 Sep 2007

The Singapore Zoo and Night Safari have made millions of dollars in profits over the past three years, according to their financial records.

They also receive grants from the Government and sponsorship money from private corporations.

Adoptions and donations totalled $1.5 million for their parent company’s last financial year ended 31 Mar.

So why does parent company Wildlife Reserves Singapore (WRS) still accept funds from a charity for research and the care of its animals?

Mr Joseph Lai, the originator of the Flag Day poser was also interviewed:

‘When donations are being canvassed in public places, people donate in faith that there is governance to ensure fair and equitable distribution of funds to legitimate causes with the most urgent needs.

‘Profit-making businesses should have no place within this public donation system to ask for any monetary help.’

The article further breaks down how the Zoo spins money:

It costs an adult $16.50 to visit the zoo and $22 to visit the Night Safari.

The 2006/07 year book of WRS, which runs SZG and Jurong Bird Park, Shows admissions as the biggest revenue earner – generating $33.4million, or 44 per cent of total revenue in financial year 2006/07.

Net profit after tax for that year was $17 million, while the year before was $14 million. In 2004/05, the first year that WRS made a profit, the figure was $12 million.

Yet, the fund said it gave $1.1million to the zoo last year. The money was donated by the public and by corporations for specific adoptions of animals and exhibits there.

It is interesting to note that even the fund’s flag day volunteers had doubts

… some canvassers, such as university student Zhang Yuzhuo, wondered about the need for the flag day.

Miss Zhang, 18, and her friends spent four hours at Tiong Bahru Plaza as part of a compulsory school-based community involvement programme.

She said in Mandarin: ‘It’s not like we were raising funds for disaster victims where the need is more obvious. I also felt that it was not necessary to give away such fancy stickers.’

Read the article for the interesting contrast on how the Singapore Zoo compares to other zoos that also charge admission and receive funds.

Aside from the news article, Mr Lai also charges in this blog entry that the “Zoo’s short not of money but of moral principles“, because “Self-help is more than helping self. Self-help helps others in truth.

He also says

There is a whole lot of good things we can teach our kids.

Parents, teach your kids to take personal responsibility for nature conservation. Teach them not to depend on others to do it for them. Impress on them that each and everyone of us is a steward of our environment. And together we can all teach the super-rich Singapore Zoo not to depend on other people’s money for education, research and conservation. Tell the zoo put its own money where the mouth is and authenticate its own existence. Otherwise, whatever it preaches about nature conservation is just a farce – no genuine commitment. In any case, the zoo should never be seen as the status quo for animal conservation.

Last but not least, teach our children about true compassion. Self-help is helping others. My mum would have said it succinctly again, “one less Flag Day for the zoo, one more Flag Day for other non-profit organisations like the Children Society.”

I can’t agree more.


6 responses to “Flag Day Poser 2: How come private corporation Singapore Zoo gets funds from charity?

  1. i use to work at the zoo few years back. didnt last long coz i didnt fancy certain things going on there. but anyways, there’re like donation boxes arnd the zoo and stuff and everytime after the shows, ppl are encouraged to donate to the wildlife fund. which by the way, has the cost set at $5 per person. ridiculous i tell u. and there was once all of us attended a meeting where the zoology head discussed the zoo’s success and wat they haf done so far. amazingly, even after all that donation collecting, the number of conservation projects they participated in = 0

    the management’s probably rolling arnd in the money in their office

  2. Di,
    That’s scandalous! You mean the donations you discussed in that meeting did not go toward any conservation project… at all?

  3. that was the report they presented to us at the end of 2005. even my seniors were wondering wat the hell the management was doing with all that money that my ex-colleagues helped to raise. we’re not even sure if it realy went to that wildlife conservation fund. coz from all the reconstruction and building of unnecessary things around the zoo (like the new grand entrance – the space could’ve been used to expand quite a few of the animals’ enclosures) , seems that the money might haf went there instead. i mean seriously..they talk so much abt conservation, but from being there for that couple of months, it seemed to me that the management was more interested about making money than conservation.
    after i left, i got to know that the higher management are ex-mcdonald employees. i duno how true tho. but it fits into the impression of the management being more business minded than animal conversation minded.
    and haf you seen their recent project? they’re planning to renovate children’s world and make it into some huge amusement park

  4. Di,
    Thanks for sharing. The Singapore Zoo seems to have moved really far from its original purpose. Privatisation didn’t seem that wise a move in hindsight.

    I’ve not followed Zoo news, the latest I know came from that Sunday Times feature quite a back, sometime during the Inuka problem days… maybe now’s a good time to catch up. 😉

    BTW, I think it’s sad that the zoo has now reversed the more sensible decision previously reached and wants to continue keeping Inuka instead of sending himt to a environment more suited to polar bears after his mum is gone.

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