A small park with
a big message.
Alameda Wildlife Conservation Park in Gibraltar gets engaged with n-gage.io.
Jessica Leaper, Manager at the Alameda Wildlife Conservation Park (AWCP) in Gibraltar, is on a mission to spread the word on what this unique park does, how it came to be and what needs to be done to keep it fulfilling its mandate, whilst providing hours of enjoyment for visitors of all ages and from the four quarters of the known world.
The AWCP is a small wildlife conservation park, home to a variety of exotic animals, confiscated or unwanted pets and endangered species. To assist in sustaining the park’s many initiatives and objectives such as education on endangered species, they recently partnered with n-gage.io who have developed an innovative audience engagement platform that comes complete with an interactive visitor experience app. Leaper believes the n-gage.io platform will help the park grow much needed awareness as well as increase visits, donations, and other support for this worthwhile venture.
“We are a small park with a big message. A small space, but big ideas and small actions spark bigger results,” she explains of the park’s philosophy and remit to educate and conserve.
The AWCP began in the late 90s on a one-acre disused golf course within the greater Gibraltar Botanic Gardens. This was in answer to the strange and exotic animals found on container ships passing through the straits that had been confiscated by Gibraltar customs. The now internationally famous menagerie has since grown, having opened to the public in 2003 for the first time as a place of some curiosity for locals, to being an internationally recognised member of BIAZA and one of the officially recognised smallest zoos in the world.
Leaper volunteered in 2006 and the rest as they say in the movies, is history. When offered the role of General Manager of the park, she has never looked back. But park’s like AWCP don’t run on compassion and passion alone, and when Leaper took over, the park was in dire need of modernisation and funding – a perennial situation for such establishments everywhere. The answer, she believes, is in working smart with her very limited team, increasing visitor engagement by providing them with rich content that keeps them intrigued and coming back for more and making her visitors’ lives easier to find the park and appreciate it too.
“I’m quite into using technology to make our work more efficient as we are a very small team. None of the apps I had looked at over the years did what I wanted them to do but meeting Maxine on the first day at the BIAZA conference this year, seeing her presentation and I was blown away about n-gage’s offering – it was exactly what I was after,” commented Leaper, also referring to Maxine Bradley the founder of Northumberland Zoo who also recently deployed the n-gage.io platform.
“What stood out most was the app’s ability to do all the things we really struggle to find the time to perform but that are essential for the everyday operations and sustainability of the park. Things like management of memberships and all the background stuff – in other words the admin! It’s relatively easy to find the personnel who want to be with the animals but not the paperwork, so we had to find a way to make that simpler as well as attractive.”
For Leaper, one of the quickest benefits she will reap from implementing the n-gage platform, which went live on Halloween this year, after only 4-weeks of development and integration, is the ability to follow up on the parks members and to track whether they are in date or need sending a reminder – which can be programmed into the platform to perform automatically at renewal time.
Conservation and education outreach
“Gibraltar is a small place, and we all felt the brunt of COVID-19. However, we are slowly building capacity again and I can’t help but wish n-gage.io had been around back then, as much of our financial constraints could have been mitigated by the ability to stay in touch with our community. We are an essential cog of the local community and now that we have implemented the app, we are going to be looking to build on our school and education offerings and campaigns, as well as how our corporate supporters can play a more meaningful role in what we do and where they can benefit too.
“Our conservation message is paramount to us, and I believe that through this app we will be able to convey this information as well as reach more influencers who can help change the way people see things.”
With the platform’s built-in education modules and ability for educators to communicate with learners, Leaper is hopeful that the park can start to encourage a different perspective of animals and the natural environment. For example, the recent drought on Gibraltar was broken with torrential rains. This left Leaper and her team urgently checking up on whether their prized tortoises had turned turtle in the flood.
Another example being the importance of watering the African Grey Parrots during the drought – to refresh their feathers – and the wider impact that these weather extremes have on animals. It all comes down to education conveyed in a fun and relevant manner.
Driving and diversifying revenue
AWCP like most endeavours in the sector, depend on a combination of donor funding, government support and ticket sales to keep them alive. With the n-gage platform and app, Leaper (and her team) can now generate QR codes that can be linked to a donation portal for those spur of the moment support actions. “You know how it is, people rarely carry cash these days and by the time they get home to do a payment, will have forgotten what they were supposed to be doing and that emotional connection in the moment is lost. It’s much easier to grab them in the moment and all they must do is scan a code and press a button and hey presto, the Park receives a donation.
Monetary bequests aside, the new platform will assist the park with their structured corporate team build events. AWCP can load questionnaires, surveys, polls, and conduct interactive fun things such as hint hunt events. For the corporate, they can also have their logo (and what they do) reach new audiences through careful placement and loading of relevant news articles on the platforms newsfeed which automatically pops up on a user’s mobile phone once populated on the platform side.
There are other timesaving measures the app is already leveraging for Leaper and her team. For instance, visitors can scan carefully placed QR codes to obtain more information about a particular exhibit, which when the park is short staffed (most often than not!) or busy in other areas, means that the visitor is still getting an enriched experience. Vouchers with special promotional offers are also conveyed on the app and Leaper is hoping these too will encourage engagement.
The content that can be ingested into the platform spans the entire array of today’s smart multimedia offerings and can also be activated by strategically placed Bluetooth-enabled beacon technology for that extra surprise and delight factor for visitors.
A new turnstile is being considered at the park too, which will have a scanner for visitors to scan their tickets across for entry, as digital tickets can API into the n-gage.io platform, another streamlining innovation that AWCP are implementing.
Connecting the dots
Perhaps one of the best and more unexpected benefits the app, is that being digital and the perfect platform for digital content creators and marketers, Leaper is now able to attract younger digital-savvy people into the park to help. It’s a perfect place for young volunteers to develop skills and to become more aware of the physical world around them – a double bonus for Leaper and the animals she and her colleagues are helping to conserve.
Being one of the world’s smallest zoos, we asked Leaper about the question of affordability in terms of implementing an app of this nature. Leaper grinned, saying: “We couldn’t afford not to have it. Because our prices have been so low, we raised the entrance fee by one pound to cover the monthly costs, as we license the platform from n-gage.io. The fees for the platform are extremely reasonable given its capacity and capabilities. Even though we are a physical visitor attraction, we need to be digitally engaged and this gives us the best of both worlds.”
Like other users of the platform, the data generated through the app, will allow her to get a better understanding of dwell times, which exhibits attract the most attention and those that may need a little boost or a rethink in terms of how they are positioned. Overtime and as she gathers more data through the platform, she’ll also be able to segment her marketing to users for a more personalised approach.
Although still fresh, the advantages that have come from implementing the n-gage.io platform have been impressive, to the extent that the Gibraltar Botanic Gardens, within with AWCP is still housed, are also considering the platform.
Her advice to other small to medium establishments in the sector, bogged down by paper and time intensive tasks. “Don’t wait till it’s too late, take the leap and digitise, you won’t look back.”