Prey to visitor shortage, Saigon zoo launches online donation call

By Tam Linh   August 7, 2020 | 01:08 am PT
Prey to visitor shortage, Saigon zoo launches online donation call
A stork roams free in the deserted Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden. Photo by VnExpress/Tam Linh.
Saigon Zoo, in operation for 156 years, is urging the public to help it care for around 1,500 animals amid the Covid-19 economic fallout .

Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden (Thao Cam Vien), closed for two months (March 20 - May 14) following Covid-19 containment measures, reopened on May 15, and again shut on July 25 after a new wave of Covid-19 community transmissions gripped Vietnam.

As a result, 270 staff of the country's largest zoo and botanical garden have unanimously agreed to a 30 percent salary reduction this month while continuing to care for the animals.

"Saigon Zoo is self-financed, with all funding drawn from ticket sales," said Pham Anh Dung, deputy director of the facility. The zoo currently earns about VND15 million ($645) a day, a significant drop from the pre-pandemic VND300 million ($12,900).

With animal care still costing it between VND5-6 billion (about $259,000) per month, the management board has launched a social media campaign calling for public donations.

Mai Khac Trung Truc, head of the animal division, said all animals have been fed their proper rations to date. "Most of the animals raised here are rare and need careful tending," she added.

Than Van Ne, employed in the feed processing division, said the zoo is supplied by several partners, alongside its own farm in Ho Chi Minh City's Cu Chi District, from which it gets certain types of grass, leaves, vegetables and fruit.

Nearly five tons of feed including meat, vegetables, fruit, and leaves are consumed daily by the 1,500 animals.

Ne said all ingredients need to be fresh, clean and pass a quality and disease check before processing. Rations are calculated dependent on an animal’s health and natural diet.

Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden was built in 1864, opened to the public a year later, and also hosts over 125 fauna and more than 900 flora species.

The zoo, located on Nguyen Binh Khiem Street in HCMC's District 1, is affiliated with organizations like South East Asian Zoos Association (SEAZA) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), allowing it to ensure international standards in animal care.

Vietnam has reported 750 cases of Covid-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. Of them, 392 have recovered, 10 died and 348 are still in hospitals.

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