Exec’s love for animals turns into a lucrative zoo
Businessman Joel Marcelo Jimenez personally knows the appeal of animals and zoos to children. He was spellbound by them since he was a child.
“I have always been fond of animals even when I was a little kid. I grew up with dogs, ducks, guinea pigs, chickens, rabbits, marine animals in an exclusive village in Makati,” the son of former GMA 7 president Menardo Jimenez says.
From the usual domesticated animals like dogs and cats, Jimenez recalls as having his animal collection grow to include even exotic birds, tortoises, reptiles and mammals.
“My dad used to tell me that the zoo is not in our house but somewhere in Manila and that I should bring my pets there,” Jimenez says.
“Thirty years later, my dad’s words became a reality,” he stresses.
Sometime around 2000, Joel joined a couple of business partners to put up Kinder Zoo situated inside the facilities of the famed Manila Zoo.
By 2009, Joel acquired majority stake of the zoo’s ownership, enabling him to put his personal touch in the business.
“How much capital have we invested? Let us just say that it is a labor of love, meaning we no longer know how much we have invested. We just do so since we love the joy our small zoo brings to everyone who visits,” he notes.
Kinder Zoo was put up by its creators in the hopes of providing a close interaction between the animals and the visitors.
“We look for tame animals so there is close interaction between the animals and the visitors. We have tame snakes, pygmy crocodile, parrots, macaws, potbellied pigs, and gibbon, among others,” he says.
As an animal lover himself since day one, Jimenez believes in the true joy and satisfaction of encountering and interacting with animals’ first-hand.
“In most zoos the animals are caged, in kinder zoo most of our animals are out in the open. Photographers love our zoo since they can take photos of exotic animals without any bars in the photograph,” Jimenez says.
According to Jimenez, the Kinder Zoo’s source of inspiration is the Singapore Zoo where animals are not locked behind bars.
“We try to implement this as much as we can in our zoo. We are still a work in progress but our visitors see the difference,” he says.
At present, the Kinder Zoo is among the most sought after wildlife park in the country, with its success highly attributed to Jimenez’ immense passion for animals.
“We are affiliated with a lot of educational tours and we do get quite a number of students visiting our zoo every year. In addition, a number of the morning shows from the different TV stations call us up and request that they air live from our zoo,” Jimenez says.
But despite the recent success the zoo has been receiving, Jimenez knows that the animals’ welfare is far more important than the profit they can make out of them.
As such, he says that the zoo hires animal experts and veterinarians who regularly look after the animals.
“There is a lot of research involved in making sure we feed the right food to our animals. Each species requires different feeds. For example our giant tortoises, the sulcata, require just plants and grasses and some vegetables. They cannot eat food rich in protein or their shell will be deformed. The toco toucans cannot eat food rich in iron since the iron gets stored in their liver and they eventually die,” Jimenez explains.
“We also see how we can make the environment and the grounds a better place, both for the people and for the animals,” he adds.
To make the zoo more appealing to children and adult visitors, Jimenez says that they are always on the lookout for new animals to add to their current collection.
He adds that offering new and better attractions would also make those who have been to the zoo want to visit the facility again.
At present, he says that they are awaiting for the latest addition in the Kinder Zoo family—a tame zebra that kids can actually ride.
“It would be a great photo opportunity for people to post in their Facebook or Instagram account,” Jimenez stresses.
Aside from his life as a zoo owner, Jimenez is a serial entrepreneur, an artist creating functional art made out of burl wood and also serves as president of the first bio ethanol facility in the Philippines. But all of that is another story.