Feb 18, 2008

Who Should Be The Next Icon?

Thousands turned up at the Singapore zoo last Sunday to bid a final farewell to Ah Meng, the famous icon of the zoo. There has been a genuine outpouring of regret at the passing of this wonderful ambassador of Singapore tourism. Why was Ah Meng so special?

To some, she was just a friendly and lovable orang utan who was trained to have breakfast and take pictures with tourists, and promoted as the star attraction by the zoo.

But Ah Meng was not just a friendly ape who happened to be the face of the zoo. Over the 37 years she was with the zoo, Ah Meng had been exposed to, and had interacted with 2 or 3 generations of Singaporeans (not to mention tourists from around the world), and the people had formed an emotional bond with her. Emotional bonds take time to develop and cannot be willed or artificially created.

As such, Ah Meng left big shoes to fill. The zoo has since shortlisted 6 of its more popular residents - Chomel the orang utan, Chawang the bull elephant, Inuka the polar bear, Omar the white tiger, Randall the sealion and Pedro the small-clawed otter - to be its next icon.

The zoo admitted it is not easy to replace Ah Meng (almost impossible) but whichever animal it eventually decides to pick as its next icon, it will live in the shadow of the legacy the great Ah Meng left behind. The zoo can only groom it, promote it and let it interact with visitors. There can be no overnight icon.


DAVID said...

Too bad Ah Meng passed away! Seems like the zoo is one place where we can regain our childhood sense of awe =)

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