Saigon Zoo, the world’s eighth oldest, celebrated its 150th birthday Wednesday.
Known officially as the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens, the 20-hectare (49 acres) area has around 4,000 trees of various species besides more than 600 animals.
Work on the zoo began in March 1864, five years after the French colonized the city. Louis Adolphe Germain, a veterinarian in the French military, was assigned to plant trees and raise some animals on a 12-hectare area at the foot of the bridge over the Thi Nghe Canal in District 1.
The French government opened the zoo a year later and expanded it to 20 hectares at the end of the year, and appointed botanist J.B. Loius Pierre, who had been working in botanical gardens in Calcutta, India, as its director.
Pierre (1833-1905) worked at the zoo for 12 years and helped bring many trees from America, Africa and other Southeast Asian countries to the zoo as well as streets in the city’s downtown. The zoo has a pillar commemorating him. It also has a temple for Vietnam’s founders, the Hung Kings, and a historical museum with thousands of valuable relics from Vietnam and overseas.
By 1869 the zoo had 509 species of animals including 344 birds and 45 lizards. There are rare species like the rhinoceros, Indochinese tiger and yellow-cheeked gibbon.
The animal cages at the zoo were expanded from 8,500 square meters in 1975 to 25,000 square meters in 2000.
The Saigon Zoo in 1966. Photo credit: VnExpress
The zoo has a number of huge trees like this one, which is as old as the zoo itself and has a trunk of nearly 10 meters in circumference. Photo credit: Zing
The elephant cage at the zoo during colonial times. Photo credit: VnExpress
The elephant cage at the present. File photo
One of 16 tigers at the zoo. A pair of Bengal tigers gave birth to five cubs last year. Photo credit: Zing
A white tiger with two of the three cubs she delivered last August. Photo credit: Zing
The zoo now has five giraffes, including three it bought from Thailand earlier this year for VND4 billion (around US$190,000). Photo credit: Zing
The flamingo area at the zoo has no fence. Photo credit: Zing
The sheep and goat enclosure sells grass to children who want to feed the animals. Visitors can go inside the cage during certain hours in the morning. Photo credit: Zing