Home MarketsAsia Singaporean millennials run taxidermy to bring in 5 figures a month

Singaporean millennials run taxidermy to bring in 5 figures a month

by SuperiorInvest

By day, Vivian Tham works at a veterinary hospital in Singapore, helping doctors perform tests that are key to determining treatment plans for sick animals.

After her 9-to-5 job, Tham shed her lab coat to “serve the dead” with taxidermy—the art and science of breathing life into dead animals through careful preservation.

Together with her husband Jivan Jothi, she runs Black Crow Taxidermy & Art, a studio that offers animal conservation services and conducts workshops on butterfly domes and animal dissection.

We help beautify the face, cover stitches and owners … better closure.

Vivian Tham

Animal taxidermy and art at Black Crow

“Serving animals, whether alive or dead, is very meaningful to me,” Tham, 29, told CNBC’s Make It. “Through taxidermy, I help [pet owners] with their grief.”

“There are many cases where animals [go through] untimely death or sudden accident… We help beautify the face, cover stitches and owners… better closure.”

From hobby to business

Tham, who has a bachelor’s degree in zoology and a master’s degree in pathology, began practicing taxidermy “as a hobby” at home for close friends whose pets had died.

“At that point we thought we’d take on more [and] bigger things, you’re going to need a physical space, and if we get a physical space, we have to treat it like a business and run it like a business,” Jothi said.

“It was a natural progression.

In Asia we still have a taboo against death. People even associated us with witchcraft.

Jivan Jothi

Animal taxidermy and art at Black Crow

In 2021, the couple invested about $14,000 to start the business. Tham said she is the “artist and hands” behind her grooming services, while Jothi does everything else from public relations to appointment planning.

While they believed there were “a lot of people” who would like an alternative to pet cremation after death, not everyone took kindly to the idea.

“In Asia, we still have a taboo against death. People even associated us with witchcraft,” said Jothi.

“We’ve also had people report us to the authorities because they thought we were killing pets to perform a necropsy.”

Jothi said fighting misconceptions about taxidermy remains “the biggest battle” and the business operates under a strict no-take-no-kill policy.

“Anything that comes to us has to die naturally or be euthanized,” he added.

“This taboo in Asian culture will always exist, especially with the older generation, but the younger generation is more open to taxidermy.”

Waiting period one year

Public perception was just one reason the couple wasn’t sure the business would be successful.

“We are the first [in Singapore] to do it on a commercial scale at this level. There was no template to follow,” said Jothi.

“If you open a bar you have other people or competition to study.”

Due to the nature of the business, it was also difficult to estimate how much they could earn each month. “It very much depends on how many pets die,” Jothi said.

“We got 12 chickens last month. We haven’t had chickens in months!”

Tham added that the amount of animals they get can also depend on the season. For example, pet owners may bring in more birds that died of pneumonia during the wet season.

“If there’s a heat wave, all of a sudden there would be a lot of other pets that happen to come over,” she said.

Despite their doubts, Tham and Jothi surprised themselves when they were able to break even “quite quickly.”

Thanks to the workshops they hold every weekend, Jothi said they make around $7,000 in a “bad month”. They can make up to $22,000 in a good month.

We hold live performances for students so that taxidermy is not seen as taboo or something morbid – taxidermy is a science.

Jivan Jothi

Animal taxidermy and art at Black Crow

The duo said the number of animals they can take in is limited for now, given their full-time jobs. They also recently extended the waiting period from six months to a year for pet owners who want to keep their pets.

“The owner would bring it to us within the first four hours around and we store it in our freezers until we get to it,” said Jothi, who is a pilot.

“We have an express service that was half the cost at twice the cost.”

The cost of conservation varies by species—dogs and cats start at $1,800, while smaller pets like hamsters start at $260.

“Taxidermy is a science”

Although juggling their day jobs and side business has been challenging, the couple still hopes to do more — specifically in the field of public education.

They visited schools to give talks and demonstrations about taxidermy, Tham said, making biology more fun than just reading words on a page.

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