December 2023
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Saigon Kids™ Stories: Wanted Your Stories and Memories About The Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens.

Submitted by: Kathy (Connor) Dobronyi (ACS)

Does anyone have any stories/memories about the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden?

We visited the site after arriving in Saigon on June 1, 1963. I especially remember the Komodo dragon in the large walled pen. It scared me to death.

I loved walking through the gardens. They were beautiful.

Unfortunately, it seems that Americans were discouraged from going to the gardens and zoo soon after our visit. There were rumors of kidnappings.

Does anyone remember that or have other stories and memories about the Zoo and Botanical Gardens?

6 comments to Saigon Kids™ Stories: Wanted Your Stories and Memories About The Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens.

  • Kathy,

    I can remember my family visiting the Saigon Zoo, probably in the latter part of 1960. My father’s sister had sent us contact information for a young Vietnamese girl that she was sponsoring through one of those “adopt-a-kid-in-a-foreign-land-for-pennies-per-day” agencies, and my parents went about locating the little girl. So that day, dressed in her flowing ao-dai dress and wearing her nicest conical hat, she visited the Saigon Zoo with us. I’ve got a VHS tape containing some movies of us strolling around the zoo.

    The second story involves my older brother. At the time of our posting to Saigon, he had just finished his first year at college, and was given the option of coming to Vietnam with the family. Being 20, once we got to Saigon he got a job as a courier for the American Embassy, carrying mail between the embassy, USOM, and MAAG headquarters. Sometimes he even got to fly with confidential materials up to the consulate in Hue. But one day (a slow day, I guess), for some reason he stopped at the Saigon Zoo for a visit, followed by an unplanned emergency visit back to our house for a change of clothes. He was not a bit happy, as I recall. It seems that as he stood in front of the cage with all the little monkeys clinging to the bars of the cage, one of the little creatures had the urge to void its bladder, thereby soaking my brother and his shirt and pants. (On our trip back home in 1961, we traveled through Europe. In Munich, we visited a family friend who was the head veterinarian of that city’s zoo. Naturally we had to be shown around it by the good Herr Doctor Friedl. I noticed that my brother steered a wide berth around the monkey enclosure to avoid any repeat of the earlier indignity.)

    • Bruce – you should transfer the VHS tapes to MP4 videos. Could then be mastered onto DVD’s

      Ahhh … the monkeys … we (the Clods and other warped mind lads) would feed the monkey’s cheese causing them have an orgy (cheese had an extreme aphrodisiac effect when ingested by the monkeys). The monkey’s would go crazy — both the males and the females. They got very, very vocal too. As well as, highly aggressive in their pursuit of the opposite sex. They’d go at it hot and heavy for about 15 to 20 minutes, then go back to clinging to the cages emptying their bladders on unsuspecting spectators — LOL – 🙂

  • Kevin L. Wells


    My two most vivid memories were of the tiger sleeping in the pool with his head propped on a rock in the pool, and the time I saw the elephant take a swing at someone who was teasing her with a piece of sugar cane. The elephant almost connected with the man’s skull. I was rooting for the elephant.


  • Leri Thomas

    We used to buy sugar cane and feed it to the elephants. between 55-60 we attended school in quonsets near the American compound. The elephants got to take a walk to the presidential palace and back. I remember sitting in class and watching them walk by everyday.

  • Deb Martin

    I don’t remember much about the zoo but we had a pet monkey that lived on our out door balcony for a while. The monkey was not very nice. I think my Dad adopted it because my mother had told stories of her Dad (my grandfather) who was the young child of a ship’s captain, on a large sailing ship, and they had monkeys on board. The monkeys would be given hot bake potatoes which they would juggle because they were too hot to eat. I guess this was great entertainment for the sailors on board. They got the monkeys from Indonesia. About our monkey, in Vietnam, I don’t remember much what happened to it.

    I know we also had parakeets as pets. I have quite a vivid memory of the pet market in saigon. I believe it was along one of the main streets. There were so many different kinds of birds for sail in beautiful bamboo cages. One day at work my Dad had a beautiful canary landing on his window sill that seemed quite tame. My Dad was able to capture it and bring it home to live in our cage. It was not with us very long before it died. My parents were at a coctail party after that when they heard a lady telling a story of her canary that was the champion winner of Vietnam’s most beautiful singing bird contest. The captured canary we had had such a beautiful singing voice. It turns out the lady lived in an apartment just above my Dads office and the bird had escaped. So in this way my parents figured out that this bird we had had to have been this champion bird singer.

    We also had a pet dochound that we purchased when it was a very little puppy. We called the dog Taby short for Tableau which was the French work for Tableau ( meaning black board in French} When we left Vietnam we were all very heart broken to have to leave the dog there before we returned to the USA. My mother wrote a children’s book about the dog and illustrated it since she was an artist. I have a copy of the book I could share with others. The illustrations bring back many memories of life in Vietnam.

    Deb Spohr Martin

  • George Baggett

    A while back I thought I posted some pictures taken at the zoo and the gardens – one of the prettier places in Saigon. I remember a black bear, a large Python, and floating plants surrounding a gazebo, and dragons lining a stairway. I often went to the zoo to get away from the depressing happenings at 3rd Field Hospital. I also recall paintings and market items being sold by vendors parked along the walkway. I never felt unsafe, however I also carried a 45, which I grew to dislike.

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