Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens
The Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens, established in 1865, is Vietnam's largest zoo and botanical garden. Located on Nguyen Binh Khiem Street in District 1, T.P. in Ho Chi Minh City, it is home to over a hundred species of mammals, reptiles and birds, as well as many rare orchids and ornamental plants. Also within the grounds is the Museum of Vietnamese History, housing some 25,000 artifacts of history, culture and ethnography of South Vietnam. The grounds also include a temple to the Hung Kings (formerly a monument to Indochinese soldiers who died for France during World War I). Other parts of the zoo are divided into animal and plant conservation areas, an orchid garden, and an amusement park.
On March 23, 1864, Admiral Pierre-Paul de La Grandière, commander of French forces in Cochinchina, commissioned the building of a zoo in Saigon. Malacologist Louis Germain was named the director of the project on March 28, 1865. Construction started on 12 hectares (30 acres) northeast of Thi Nghe Channel, and the zoo occupied 20 hectares (49 acres) by the end of 1865. On February 17th, 1869 the zoo opened to the public, and today the Saigon Zoo is one of the oldest continuously operating zoos in the world.
The Saigon Zoo has undergone many changes over the years. In 1927, a bridge across Thi Nghe Channel was built to connect sections of the zoo. In 1985, a stone jetty was built, and electrical wiring was added to improve the zoo. In 1989 the facilities received many improvements to make the environment more suitable for its resident population. In 1990, the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden was recognized as a member of the South East Asian Zoos Association. In 1993, the zoo director proposed a long-term plan to improve the quality of management, housing, and care of the animals. That plan came to a close in 2003. The Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens is now the largest zoo and botanical garden in Vietnam.
Characteristics and values
The Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden contains 590 animals of 125 species and 1,830 trees and plants of 260 species, some of which are over 100 years old. This includes 20 species of orchid, 32 species of cactus and 34 species of bonsai. The Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden is divided into an animal conservation area, a plant conservation area, an orchid garden and an amusement park.
The botanical garden contains many species of rare and valuable plants, some of which are not native to Vietnam. There are species of cacti, ferns and plants that have been imported from Africa and America. The zoo has many kinds of mammals, reptiles, and birds such as: monkeys, giraffes, white Bengal tigers, Clouded Leopards, African lions, gibbons, turtles and snakes. Besides native animal species, there are also many exotic species, some of which are seen in Vietnam for the first time, such as: Hippopotamus amphibius, Choeropsis liberiensis, Panthera onca, Struthio camelus, Phoenicopterus ruber. There are lakes with contain different types of lotuses and a myriad of fish species.
The Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden contains two noteworthy buildings: a temple to the Hung Kings, originally built as a monument to Indochinese soldiers who died for France during World War I; and the Museum of Vietnamese History. The museum is split into two sections: a 15 room-area displaying items from the beginning of Vietnam to 1930, and a 6 room-area displaying artifacts from the culture and history of South Vietnam. Outside of the museum there is a large yard that displays the weapons of France, used during Vietnam's French colonial era. The museum also contains approximately 25,000 documents of history, culture and ethnography. The zoo employs approximately 1,000 workers, and estimates that it attracts over two million visitors each year.
Conservation and education
The main purpose of the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden is to educate the public and protect endangered animals and plants. One of many programs the zoo participates in to protect endangered species is one to breed animals in captivity, the goal being to replenish their populations. The Saigon Zoo is currently the only zoo in the world that has successfully bred crested argus pheasants in captivity.
In addition to conservation, in 1999 the zoo's conservation education department created a plan to educate the public about how to protect animals and plants. Each year, 3,200 students visit the zoo and listen to an hour-long lecture and watch a 30-minute film about animal and plant conservation. It is also a place for people from all over the world to study the fauna and flora of Southeast Asia.
The zoo is at 2B Nguyen Binh Khiem Street, District 1, T.P. in Ho Chi Minh City. It has two gates: a main gate on Nguyen Binh Khiem Street at the corner of Le Duan Street and another on Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street.
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