Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Vietnam, HCMC: Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden

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European royals have been "collecting and trading" exotic animals since the Middle Ages, and in fact the Lion’s Tower, part of the Tower of London complex on the banks of the River Thames, was built around 1270 to house King Henry III’s growing menagerie. Chinese Emperor Wen 'the Cultured' set aside land for a royal hunting park to shelter the 'Pere David's Deer' perhaps 200 years before that. (You can read about my visit to the modern day Milu Park on those same exact lands here.) King Wen may have provided the first example of a "zoo" to preserve an endangered species, even if he was doing so for his private benefit.

The modern concept of a zoo, intertwining dual purposes of preservation and breeding, alongside public education and display, is a fairly recent phenomenon, dating to the mid-nineteenth century ...

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... and so the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden's claim to being one of the world's first zoos (founded in 1864) is not an idle boast. Certain parts of the zoo, however, are definitely sub-par, with too many buildings in need of repair:

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The reptile house, monkey house, and small cats area are particularly in need of a redo, with small spaces and concrete floors a hold-over 70s zoo management philosophy.

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The large animals fare somewhat better, and the zoo houses many varieties, a sampling of which is below:

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The Botanical Garden

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I love plants and flowers, something I picked up from my Dad, who not only photographed them, but often illegally carried seeds from one continent to another and germinated them--or attempted to. I hasten to point out that I don't. Smuggle plants and seeds. I do photograph them, but often not as well as he does. I do end up with better final shots, but that's because I use a digital camera these days, where 50 failed tries cost no more than one perfectly set up shot, and by 'brute law of averages force' I come out with one nearly-perfect image. Which I'll share below.

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The zoo seems very popular, though I did visit on a Saturday afternoon. Lots of schoolchildren in uniforms running around, families, young couples, a good cross-section. There was even a photo shoot going on:

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