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Vietnam's oldest zoo is struggling to survive amid the COVID-19 pandemic as it hardly sees visitors now. The zoo authorities are now holding fundraising drives, cutting pay and growing fruit and vegetables to feed the animals.
The zoo, over 150 years old and built in the French colonial era, saw visitor numbers fall by March. By April and May, the lockdown had shut it completely.
However, the zoo has to meet running costs of 180 million dong (USD 7,740) a day. It also has to ensure more than 1,400 animals are fed.
Noting how ticket sales normally make up most of the USD 5 million annual revenue, Pham Van Tan, head of the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens said: "Since we don't know when the pandemic will finally end, we are trying to diversify our revenue streams."
The zoo is now growing flowers to sell to the public, designing gardens for homeowners and selling fertilizers to farmers to ensure they can pay the bill. Staff at the zoo have taken 30% salary cuts.
"We still ensure food supplies for the animals, but we try to provide them with seasonal food which is cost-effective," said Pham. The zoo, says Pham, was growing nearly half of its food supplies on the city's outskirts.
Recently, a fundraising drive raised over USD 100,000 in just two days. 25 tonnes of food have been donated for animals at the zoo.
Owing to the current crisis, the zoo has suspended plans to exchange animals for breeding internationally, India Today reported.
According to zoo veterinarian Nguyen Baa Ph, some of the animals have been emboldened as fewer people peer at them now.
"Now it's a good time to visit, since there are not many people," said Nguyen Thin Quay, a production manager.
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