Saigon Zoo Zoo Review

Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens, Vietnam – Zoo Review

The RIGHT-tourism Zoo Review is a quick but informed guide to the quality of places where the public can see animals, including zoos, dolphinariums and other attractions.

We’ve used a range of measures, taken from information available online, to judge how well the animals at the particular zoo or animal attraction are looked after. More than just a ‘review’, the results are actually a Quality Index which will allow tourists and the attractions themselves to judge how well the attractions are performing.

Please note, the information we use is taken from what we assume to be genuine and factually correct comments from reviews, blogs and news stories. If there are factual inaccuracies, please let us know and we will make the relevant changes.

RIGHT-tourism Zoo Review Rating for: Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Zoo_Review_Stamp_Poor

Summary

One of the oldest zoos in the world and the oldest and biggest in Vietnam, Saigon Zoo could and should stand as a beacon of welfare and light on the future. This is, however, not the case.

Badly planned and orchestrated enclosures, with little or no enrichment, and unsuitable and insufficient water sources seem to be a daily occurrence in the lives of the animals that have to live here. Added to this there are a number of reports that the visitors throw rubbish at the animals and photos certainly show littering in the cages of many of the species. This zoo does not appear to be protecting the animals in the way it should and must ensure that they are not open to abuse from staff, visitors or administration.

This zoo charges very little in terms of entrance fee and it appears that this is reflected in the care for their animals. This zoo seems to be in serious need of refurbishment and renewal, which also seems to be happening.

While the welfare side of things might be bad the zoo is involved in a program to rescue and reintroduce bears from the bile milking industry to the wild. They have also successfully bred the rare Indochinese tiger and are the only zoo in the world to have bred the Crested Argus pheasant, but there doesn’t seem to be any plans to include these animals in reintroduction programs. In fact there is little evidence to suggest that they contribute to any habitat conservation at all.

This zoo certainly is not the worst zoo I have seen or reviewed, but the welfare standards that they appear to have for their animals if terrible. There are far too many reports of “sad” and “bored” animals to justify a trip to this zoo. This zoo needs significant work to bring itself up to a standard that meets the needs of the animals that have to live there. I also feel that they should open their rather narrow viewpoint of “education and protection of endangered species” to include habitat conservation. What is the point in saving species if you aren’t also going to provide a space from them to live and try to put them in it?

Saigon Zoo

Section One: Social Media and News

This section looks at how the attraction is rated by people on key reviewing sites, and in blogs/the media. The reviews are often not concerned with animal welfare, so this section has a lower influence on the overall mark than other sections. However, it is an important measure of the way the attraction is viewed by visitors.

Number of negative TripAdvisor reviews

For the most recent 20 reviews which appear on the official TripAdvisor page for the attraction, how many mention animal welfare in a negative way. The score is worked out as a percentage (see method below).

Number of negative reviews:  15/20

Score: 1 points

Many reports of poor cages/enclosures and a lack of or unsuitable water sources for the animals. There are lots of the reviews that state that the animals look sad or show signs of distress and that they are in need of more enrichment. Possibly the most lamentable comments refer to the amount of rubbish a refuse left in the cages by careless visitors to the zoo. There are two positive comments that state the animals seem to be in good health and most importantly that the zoo is improving its facilities for the care of the animals.

Number of negative Google reviews

For the most recent 20 reviews which appear on the Google search page for the attraction, how many mention animal welfare in a negative way. The score is worked out as a percentage (see method below).

Number of negative reviews:  1/4

Score: 2 points

There are only four reviews here on English so the percentage has been taken from that.

Number of negative news articles and blogs
For the most recent 10 independent blogs or news articles for the attraction, how many mention animal welfare in a negative way. The score is worked out as a percentage (see method below).

Number of negative mentions:  5/10

Score: 3 points

Not many news stories about this zoo but those that are there talk about the conservation work they do and the breeding programs within the zoo. The negative reviews all come from blogs that show shock and disgust at the treatment and condition of the animals in this zoo.
Interestingly all the negative blogs are from westerners living or travelling in Vietnam, where as the positive blogs are from Asians and they also talk about the improvements made at the zoo over the years,

Total Score for Social Media and News Section:  6/10

Section Two: General Quality of Life

This section looks generally at how the animals, as a whole, appear to be treated. It is based on the internationally recognised Five Freedoms, which focus on key aspects of animal welfare including feeding, housing, health, behaviour and protection from fear/distress.

Each item is scored as either two points for a Yes, zero points for a No or one point for Possibly. (The “Possibly” category also includes situations where the answer would be Sometimes; or if the answer is unknown).

Absence of prolonged hunger and/or thirst

Score: No   0 Points

One of the biggest comments about the zoo is its lack of suitable water sources for the animals; the hippo can’t even fully submerge itself and the otters don’t have water to swim in. Also the animals eat from the hands of visitors which would lead me to question, when combined with reports of skinny animals, as to exactly how much food the animals are given each day.

Being fed an appropriate diet based on their wild diet

Score: Possibly   1 Points

No reports about this one way or the other, however as stated above I would have my doubts about how much the animals are fed at all. Also there are reports that many of the snake tanks have live rabbits and rodents in there “waiting to be eaten”, I don’t think a rabbit would be on a boa’s menu in the jungle. Also an interesting point to make is that the cost of entry to the zoo is very low and I would be interested as to how a zoo with over 130 species can afford to run at such rates. Where have they cut costs?

Ease of movement within living quarters

Score: No   0 Points

Although some of the larger animals have room there are a large number that are still living in cramped and overcrowded conditions. I was tempted to mark this as a ‘possibly’ as the zoo is still, apparently, improving its enclosures, but as there are also 11 crocodiles living in a small tank and a hippo living in less space than the porcupines I could not give the benefit of the doubt on this point.

Enrichment in living quarters (eg climbing frame, toys etc)

Score: No   0 Points

Once again although there are enclosures that have a good amount of enrichment, for example the monkeys live in a tree on an island with no bars, there are seemingly far more instances of animals left with nothing. Too many of the reviews claim the animals as being “bored” to give this category more than a “no”.

Absence of injuries or disease

Score: No   0 Points

One report claims that one of the rhinos as having an open wound with flies buzzing around it.

Absence of pain (eg being not being chained, or not being hit by staff)

Score: No   0 Points

The elephants can clearly be seen to be chained and those that aren’t allowed out are confined in stall barely big enough to stand up in. Many reports state that the have seen visitors throwing glass and plastic bottles as well as other rubbish at the animals with no staff preventing them doing so.

Ability to express natural and social behaviours in living quarters

Score: Possibly   1 Points

There is little evidence one way or another with this category. The deer are kept together in a “herd”, but the elephants are kept chained. Solitary tigers and crocodiles are kept in groups like the lions. I believe that it is most probably the case that the animals are kept together according to individual availability rather than any form of behavioural thought, but that is only my opinion.

Good human-animal relationship with staff

Score: Possibly   1 Points

Unknown as there is no mention of staff in any of the reviews.

Absence of general fear/distress/apathy

Score: No   0 Points

This is a zoo where visitors can feed or deny the animals as well as throwing rubbish at them. Where rhinos wounds are left untreated and crocodiles are almost piled on top of each other. Where live food is left in cages to, possibly, starve before being eaten. It appears to me that fear and distress could be all some of these animals know.

Ability to seek privacy/refuge from humans and other animals

Score: No   0 Points

It is clearly visible from some of the photos and stated in too many of the reviews and blogs about Saigon Zoo that most of the animals live in bare cages with little or no shade, refuge, enrichment or water and food.

Total Score for General Quality of Life:  3/20

 

Section Three: Interaction with the Public

This section focusses on the way the attraction allows the public to touch, play with, photograph, feed or otherwise interact with the animals. The focus is on whether or not the interactions are causing harm or stress/discomfort to the animals, and if they could be dangerous to the public.

Each item is scored as either two points for a Yes, zero points for a No or one point for Possibly. (The “Possibly” category also includes situations where the answer would be Sometimes; or if the answer is unknown).

The interactions are not harmful in any way for the animal’s welfare

Score: No   0 Points

Animals are not only hand fed by visitors, but the visitors also seem to be able to throw rubbish and bottles at the “residents” of this zoo. Animals welfare doesn’t seem a concern in this respect.

The interactions are not harmful in any way for the public’s welfare (any previous history of dangerous incidents)

Score: Possibly   1 Points

There are no reports of visitors being harmed, but feeding animals like elephants and hippos from your hand always carries inherent risks. Also there are pictures of people almost putting their hands inside the mouth of a hippo, one of the most dangerous wild animals in Africa.

The animals are not forced to interact with the public – they can refuse

Score: No   0 Points

A bear having a bottle thrown at it, I believe, would refuse this interaction IF it could.

The public are not allowed to handle the animals and touch them

Score: No   0 Points

There is not much more left to say…feeding animals by hand.

The interactions are supervised by staff and in an educational context

Score: Possibly   1 Points

To give the benefit of the doubt there is a possibility that the staff are present and it is only a few idiots that take advantage of times when they are not to throw their refuse. Also it’s possible that staff are expected to allow the hand feeding of animals.

Total Score for Interaction with the Public:  2/10

 

Section Four: Conservation and Education

This section looks at whether or not the attraction has a focus on conservation – for example does it support animals in the wild through breeding programmes, research or donations; and education – are visitors informed about the animals so they are not simply seen as objects for human amusement/entertainment.

Each item is scored as either two points for a Yes, zero points for a No or one point for Possibly. (The “Possibly” category also includes situations where the answer would be Sometimes; or if the answer is unknown).

Are some of the animals part of international breeding programs?

Score: Yes   2 Points

The zoo is involved in breeding programs and has managed to successfully breed a number of species; including, recently, a litter of five Indochinese tigers. This is only good news for the species (and the individuals) if the zoo is part of and contributing to habitat conservation and repopulation programs as well. If not then all they are doing is condemning more animals to a life behind bars.

Is there evidence of them having released animals into the wild?

Score: No   0 Points

I found no evidence that this zoo has ever or does ever plan to release animals into the wild. I would like to find out if it is part of their plans for species conservation or not.

Do they actively undertake scientific research into conservation/behaviour of their animals?

Score: No   0 Points

There is no evidence to suggest that this zoo conducts behavioural research on their website. There was a project on the behavioural enrichment of the yellow cheeked crested gibbons in the zoo, but this finished in 2008 and it appears no other projects are running or planned.

Does the attraction give money to conservation or animal protection programmes?

Score: Yes   2 Points

I managed to find a link to the zoos Bear Conservation Centre which rescues, treats and rehabilitates bears from the bile milking industry. On the face of it this appears to be a good charity to help protect the species; these animals which are kidnapped from the wild are rescued and treated by vets before being transferred to Tam Dao Bear Sanctuary for reintroduction.

Does the attraction provide educational talks or written displays to inform visitors about the animals?

Score: Yes   2 Points

They run a program of hour long talks with a thirty minute video to educate people into the pressures that wild animals face in this and other countries. They also try to educate the visitors of the zoo with signage in Vietnamese, English and French.

Total Score for Conservation and Education: 6/10

 

Zoo Review Final Score for Zoo Saigon:  17/50

Rating: 11-20: Poor – appears that significant improvement is needed in order to meet welfare standards

Do you agree or disagree with this Zoo Review? Please let us know in the Comments below.
If you are from this attraction and would like to comment on this Zoo Review, we’ll be happy to publish your response. Please email info@careforthewild.com or click
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Notes

  1. This report was compiled on: 16th November 2014 by Tim Reynolds. Find out more about our Zoo Review campaign here.
  2. Zoo Review Final Score is given out of 50 as a sum of the four sections, then a RIGHT-tourism Zoo Review rating is awarded based on this score:

0-10: Unacceptable – the animal welfare at this attraction appears to be of a very low standard and a cause of great concern
11-20: Poor – it appears that significant improvement is needed in order to meet welfare standards
21-30: Average – the attraction scores well in some areas but improvements would be welcome
31-40: Good – Public opinion and animal welfare measures suggest that the animals here are looked after well
41-50: Best in Class – the welfare of the animals appears to be of a very high standard

  1. TripAdvisor and Google scores are worked out by dividing the number of negative welfare reviews by the total (20) and multiplying by 100 to give a percentage, then giving a score out of 2.5 as follows:

0-19% negative 2.5 points
20-39% 2 points
40-59% 1.5 points
60-79% 1 point
80-89% 0.5 point
90–100% 0 points

  1. News and blog scores are worked out by dividing the number of negative welfare reviews by the total (10) and multiplying by 100 to give a percentage, then giving a score out of 5 as follows:

0-19% negative 5 points
20-39% 4 points
40-59% 3 points
60-79% 2 point
80-89% 1 point
90–100% 0 points





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