Vietnam's largest safari construction scheduled to start this summer, after 13-year delay

By Trung Son   March 9, 2017 | 10:43 pm PT
Vietnam's largest safari construction scheduled to start this summer, after 13-year delay
The signboard of Saigon Safari is the only sign indicating that the area is actually not a cow grazing ground. Photo by VnExpress/Trung Son
Real estate giant Vingroup has been picked to replace the Saigon Zoo as the project's main investor.

Ho Chi Minh City is expected to start construction on its long delayed safari project this July, after replacing the main investor.

In a new report sent to the government to explain the delay of the 485-hectare (1,200-acre) project, the city’s government attributed the delay to poor financial capability of the main investor, and the project's low profitability, which made it hard to attract other investors.

Slow ground clearance, due to complaints by disgruntled residents over poor compensation, also dragged the project, it said.

The city started site clearance work in 2004, relocating 715 families in Cu Chi District, around 40 kilometers (25 miles) northwest of the downtown, but only 689 families have been paid so far, following several protests.

The city said it also failed to afford a competent consultancy for the project, planned to be the largest of its kind in Vietnam and one of the major semi-natural destinations in Southeast Asia.

The city had initially assigned the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens Company, which manages the downtown Saigon Zoo, to be the main investor of the $500 million project, known as Saigon Safari.

The company was selected for its expertise in plant and animal care, as well as its relations with zoos across the world, Le Van Khoa, the city’s vice chairman, said in the report.

But after 13 years, the area remains deserted and covered in weed.

The city in May last year handed over the park to real estate giant Vingroup, also the developer of the country’s first safari park in the southern island of Phu Quoc.

Vingroup has been building a detailed plan for the project, including a golf course, a hotel and an area for other outdoor activities.

The Ho Chi Minh City government has urged its agencies to work with the investor so that construction can start in July, Saigon Giai Phong reported in late January. The daily is run by the city Communist Party unit.

The new investor has been allowed to hire a foreign consultant company with its own money, the report said.

Vingroup, whose founder Pham Nhat Vuong is believed to be Vietnam’s richest person, opened Vinpearl Safari Phu Quoc in late 2015 with around 3,000 animals of 150 species including those imported from South America and Africa.

Vingroup has denied allegations that a large number of animals had died after being transported to the island off the southern province of Kien Giang.

In 2016, Lam Dong Province in the Central Highlands also announced a plan to build a 490-hectare (1,210-acre) safari park to the north of the resort town Da Lat to boost tourism.

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