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Battered by Covid-19, Saigon’s oldest historical and cultural site calls for help

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The Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden, one of the favorite sites in inner HCMC, is calling for help as Covid-19 has severely crippled its revenue while inflicting huge losses on the zoo

One of the oldest among public places in HCMC, which is also one of the most favorite sight-seeing sites in the inner city for Saigonese, especially the young ones—the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden—is calling for help as it suffered losses worth almost VND20 billion in the first six months of 2020. On average, the zoo lost VND100 million a day.

Last Sunday, the news site vnexpress.net posted an article which said the management of the 20-hectare zoo in HCMC has tried to seek help from the community to retain the lives of nearly 1,500 individuals of animals there. vnexpress.net quoted Pham Anh Dung, vice director of the zoo, who said each day the ticket revenue fell from VND300 million on average before Covid-19 to only VND15 million now. Each ticket costs VND50,000 for adults and is free for children under one meter tall.

“The zoo is a financially self-reliant entity,” said Dung. “Therefore, all the expenses must be covered by ticket sales.” The zoo needs between VND5-6 billion each month to buy food for and take care of their wild animals.

The news site also quoted the zoo’s H1 financial report which said its total revenue was less than VND27 billion, only a half of that in the same period last year. In the first six months of this year, the zoo spent VND41 billion on food for the animals, materials and payrolls, among others.

The culprit for the plunging sales has been widely known: the Covid-19 pandemic, which forced social distancing measures and prevented visitors from making a visit to the zoo.

“So far, we’ve tried to give the animals the right food proportions they need,” Mai Khac Trung Truc, head of the animal department of the zoo, told vnexpress.net. “As most of the animals here are rare or endangered ones, they need adequate care and protection.”

… in need of help

Tran Van Ne, a member of the group responsible for processing animal food at the zoo, said the bulk of the animal feed is provided by partners outside of the zoo. Only some of it, which includes grass, leaves, vegetables and fruits, is self-supplied from the zoo’s farm in Cu Chi District. According to Ne, each day, the zoo needs almost five tons of animal feed—such as meat, vegetables, leaves, fruits and grass.

Grappled with the great loss in the first half, the zoo is likely to fail to carry out the year’s plan in which it targets tentative profit of VND1.7 billion. Last year, the zoo earned total revenue of over VND110 billion and profit of VND1.6 billion.

All 270 staffers of the zoo have agreed to cut their salaries by 30% to have more financial sources for the animals they are tending. However, the payroll cut is only a stop-gap measure which cannot last long.

The Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden is apparently comparable to other oldest landmarks in town, such as the municipal General Post Office, the Notre Dame Cathedral and Ben Thanh Market. The zoo is not only a historical site but also a symbol of cultural value unique to a city in Vietnam.

Construction of the zoo was started on March 23, 1864 by Pierre-Paul de La Grandière, a French governor of Indochina, officially known as the Indochinese Union, which then included Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. The zoo was designed to be a site for the preservation of local fauna and flora and a research center for French scientists.

According to its website, the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden is now home to some 1,500 individuals of seven classes of vertebrate animals. There are also 1,800 woody plants of 260 species, many of which are big centuries-old trees most precious in Vietnam.

Compiled by the Weekly

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