The Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens

The Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens is located on Nguyen Binh Khiem at the opposite end of Le Duan to the Reunification Palace in Saigon’s District 1. In addition to the zoo and the gardens it is home to the Museum of Vietnamese History. Also here is a temple which is dedicated to the Hung Kings. It was originally constructed as a memorial to Indochinese soldiers who died fighting for France during World War II. The Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens is one of Saigon’s busiest attractions was established in 1865. 

The building of the zoo was commissioned on March 23rd 1864 by the then Admiral of the French forces in Cochincina, Pierre Paul Marie Benoît de La Grandière. Initially the site covered about 12 hectares (30 acres) but by the end of 1865 when completed the site was an impressive 20 hectares (49 acres) in size. It opened its doors to the general public in 1869. it is the largest zoo in the country and is also one of the oldest zoos in the world to remain continuously open. 

It has been significantly improved and changed over the years. The bridge over the Thi Nghe canal was constructed in 1927 and the stone jetty was added in 1985. The zoo was recognised as  a member of the Southeast Asian Zoos Association in 1990. A plan to improve animal conditions and management was undertaken in 1993 and reached its completion in 2003. 

The Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens is home to some 600 animals covering around 125 species of mammals, reptiles and birds. There are white Bengal tigers, clouded leopards, African lions, monkeys, giraffes, gibbons, turtles and snakes.  For some species like the hippos, panthers and canals it was the first time they had ever been seen in Vietnam.

In addition the botanical gardens house approximately 1,830 trees and plants from about 260 species. Some of the plants here are over 100 years in age.  There are many rare orchids and ornamental plants, cacti and bonsai.

The Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden consists of four main areas: the animal housing and conservation area, a plant conservation area, the orchid garden and a family amusement park. Its main stated purpose is for education and the protection of endangered animals and plants. The zoo takes part in breeding programmes to replenish their populations in the wild. This led to one striking success when it became the only zoo in the world to breed crested argus pheasants in captivity.

Many students come to the zoo on field trips to take lectures on animal and plant conservation. Of course, zoos tend to polarise opinion and Saigon Zoo is no exception. That being said, it is a lot better than many and certainly better than the perception of a lot of people living here. The animals are well looked after and their keepers certainly appear to be doing the work for the right reasons.

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