Singapore’s millennials run taxidermy business to bring in 5 figures a month

Vivian Tham works day shifts at a veterinary hospital in Singapore, helping doctors perform crucial tests to determine treatment plans for sick animals.

After his 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. shift, Tham throws off his lab coat to “serve the dead” through taxidermy — the art and science of bringing dead animals back to life through careful preservation.

With her husband Jivan Jothi, they run Black Crow Taxidermy & Art, a studio that offers pet preservation services and runs workshops on butterfly domes and animal dissection.

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

Vivian Tam

Taxidermy and black crow art

“Serving animals, whether they’re alive or dead, is very important to me,” Tham, 29, told CNBC Make It. “Thanks to taxidermy, I help [pet owners] with their mourning.

“There are many cases where animals [go through] an untimely death or a sudden accident… We help beautify the face, cover stitches and give 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 died.

“At that time, we thought that taking more [and] bigger you will 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 the natural progression.”

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

Jivan Jothi

Taxidermy and black crow art

In 2021, the couple invested around $14,000 to start the business. Tham said she’s the “artist and hands” behind her taxidermy services, while Jothi handles everything else, from public relations to scheduling appointments.

While they thought there were “a lot of people” who would like an alternative to cremating animals after death, not everyone liked the idea.

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

“We also had a situation where people reported to authorities because they thought we were killing pets for taxidermy.”

Jothi said fighting misconceptions about taxidermy remains the company’s “biggest fight” and the company operates a strict no-catch, no-kill policy.

“Anything that happens to us must die naturally or be put down by a veterinarian,” he added.

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

One year waiting period

Public perception was just one reason the couple weren’t sure the venture was going to be a success.

“We are the first [in Singapore] do it on a commercial scale, at this level. We didn’t have any sort of role model,” Jothi said.

“If you open a bar you have other people or competitions you can study.”

Given the nature of the business, it was also difficult to gauge how much they could earn each month. “It depends a lot on how many animals die,” Jothi said.

“Last month we had 12 chickens. We haven’t had chickens for months!”

Tham added that the volume of animals they get could also depend on the season. For example, pet owners may bring in more dead birds from pneumonia during the rainy season.

“If there was a heat wave, there would suddenly be a lot of other pets dying by accident,” she said.

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

With the workshops they run every weekend, Jothi said they would make around $7,000 in a “bad month.” On a good month, they can fetch up to $22,000.

We organize live shows for students so that they don’t consider taxidermy taboo or something morbid – taxidermy is a science.

Jivan Jothi

Taxidermy and black crow art

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

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

“We have an express service that was half the time, at double the cost.”

The price of keeping varies with each species – dogs and cats start at $1,800, while small pets like hamsters start at $260.

“Taxidermy is a science”

Although it has been difficult to juggle their daily work and a side business, the couple still hope to do more, especially in the field of public education.

They visited schools to give lectures and demonstrations on taxidermy, Tham said, which makes biology more fun than just reading words on a page.


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