The Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden, 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. It also contains the Museum of Vietnamese History, which houses 25,000 documents of history, culture and ethnography from the country’s history and the culture and history of South Vietnam, and a monument to Vietnamese people who were killed in World War I. Ranked the eighth oldest zoo in the world, its other parts are divided into animal and plant conservation areas, an orchid garden and an amusement park.
On March 23, 1864, Admiral Pierre de la Grandière, commander of French forces in Cochinchina, commissioned the building of a zoo in Saigon. Veterinarian Louis Germain was named the director of the project on March 28, 1865, and construction of the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden started in area 12 hectares (30 acres) northeast of Thi Nghe Channel. The zoo occupied 20 hectares (49 acres) by the end of 1865. On February 17, 1869 (the National Day of France), the zoo opened to the public.
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 1956, the Saigon government renamed the zoo Thao Cam Vien[clarification needed]. In 1985, a stone jetty was built, and an electric wire was added to improve the zoo. Since 1989, the facilities have been updated to make the environment more suitable for its animals. The Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden was recognized as a member of the Southeast Asian Zoological Association in 1990. The next year, the zoo’s garden was re-established.
The zoo has received support from foreign countries. In 1993, the zoo director proposed a long-term plan, that came to a close in 2003, to improve the quality of management, housing, and care of the animals. After years of construction, it is now the largest zoo and botanical garden in the country.
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, Indochinese tigers, white Bengal tigers, Clouded Leopards, African lions, gibbons, deer, elephants, 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.
Characteristics and values
The Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden contains two noteworthy buildings: the monument for the Vietnamese people who were killed in 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.
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 fauna and flora.
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