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Vietnam's first-ever safari zoo denies mass deaths of rare animals

Monday, February 22, 2016, 11:52 GMT+7

The operator of a zoo believed to be Vietnam’s first-ever semi-wildlife park has denied reports that it has caused the deaths of thousands of species of rare birds and animals under its management only two months after opening.

The Vinpearl Safari, located on Phu Quoc Island off the southern province of Kien Giang, opened to visitors last Christmas, with its developer Vingroup hoping to offer a new place of interest to visitors to the country’s biggest island.

But several reports surfaced online last week, holding Vinpearl Safari responsible for the deaths of 1,000 birds and some 700 mammals, including a few dozen giraffes.

A number of animals have also fled from the safari park, according to the reports.

All accusations have been refuted by Thirumurugan Rajarathanam, head of the animal hospital at the zoo park, when speaking to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Sunday.

Thirumurugan did confirm that more than 100 birds have died, but not because they were mistreated by the zoo.

Some birds died as their health was affected during the transportation process, while others failed to adapt to the new climate and environment, according to the animal expert.

The 380-hectare Vinpearl Safari is home to more than 2,000 animals of 140 different species, according to Vingroup.

The death ratio at Vinpearl Safari is currently below five percent, which Thirumurugan said is a normal rate at any newly opened zoo.

As for the reported animal escapes, Thirumurugan confirmed that 135 small monkeys, weighing 150-200 grams each, have fled their cages.

The cages are designed to host bigger monkeys so those smaller primates have been able to get through the holes in their safety nets, he explained.

The animal expert added that those monkeys are native to Phu Quoc Island, and the primates return to the zoo for food every day.

Once feeding, they return to the forest, he said, adding that besides those monkeys, no other animals have fled from Vinpearl Safari.

EIPZKafQ.jpgSome Texas Longhorn cattle are seen at the park. Photo: Tuoi Tre

As Tuoi Tre reporters visited Vinpearl Safari on Sunday, the zoo was packed with thousands of visitors.

The animals also seemed more accustomed to visitors than they had been two months ago.

The tigers, lions, giraffes and rhinos at the safari park are now willing to walk closer to the fences in order to ‘serve’ tourists, rather than staying away.

At the giraffe zone, a dozen of them were seen leisurely eating leaves amid a crowd of visitors, unlike online reports suggesting they had died because of an unsuitable living environment.

“These 12 giraffes brought from Africa have all adapted well, and none of them have died as reported online,” zoo manager Pham Tuan Linh told Tuoi Tre.

The online posts also said some foreign experts have stopped working at Vinpearl Safari as a protest against the mass animal deaths.

But Linh said only two out of the ten foreign experts had left the zoo’s animal hospital last month, when their contracts expired.

“The remaining eight specialists, with five from India and three from Singapore, France and Thailand, are still working normally here,” he said.

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Vietnam’s realty conglomerate Vingroup turned the first sod on Vinpearl Safari in September 2015, with an estimated investment of VND3.3 trillion (US$147.32 million).

Phu Quoc Island is also home to Vingroup’s flagship Vinpearl entertainment complex, and the safari park sits just in front of the resort around 30km from Duong Dong Town, the island’s center.

Vingroup claimed that the ecosystem of the forest has remained almost untouched, and the animals have been imported from India and Africa via private jets.

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