Since there are tigers in Vietnam, surely there must be lions, right? Is there any truth to the age-old myth of lions stalking the hills in Vietnam and challenging the local tiger population? We will discuss whether there are lions in Vietnam and where they can be found today.
Technically yes, there are lions in Vietnam. However, lions are not native to Vietnam. Lions are native to Sub-saharan Africa. All lions in Vietnam are the by-product of rescue operations conducted by the Vietnamese government to curb illegal imports of lion products.
Related: Are There Rhinos In Vietnam?
Are There Lions In Vietnam?
There are lions in Vietnam, but finding them might prove difficult for even the most experienced traveler. Lions can be found in various zoos and safari parks dotted around the country. The Vietnamese government has cracked down hard on the illegal import of lions, bones, meat, skins, and other lion-based produce.
What Is A Lion’s Native Habitat?
Fo if lions are not native to Vietnam, why not? What kind of climate does Vietnam have that lions don’t like? Let’s look at what a lion’s native habitat looks like and how it clashes with the green forests of Vietnam.
According to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, lions inhabit many different habitats. Lions prefer open plains and dry thorny forests with thick brush. The vast open fields of the Sahara’s southern fringe give lions ample room to breed and hunt without being challenged for dominance of the food chain.
The only notable exception to this general rule is a small subspecies of lion found in India that live in the Gir Forest in the northwest region of India. Lions are notably absent from equatorial areas covered in moist tropical forests, like the ones found in Vietnam.
Where Can You Go To See Lions In Vietnam?
So lions aren’t native to Vietnam because they don’t like the weather, and the government has outlawed the import of lions and their products. So, where can a curious traveler go to see a lion in Vietnam? Here are a few places a tourist might spot the king of the Savanna.
Vinpearl Safari, Phu Quoc Island
Vinpearl Safari Phu Quoc is located southwest of the “Pearl Island” Phu Quoc, situated in the Kien Giang province. Vinpearl Safari was built on 380 hectares of precisely divided land, split into two separate areas, the open zoo and the wildlife park. Vinpearl Safari Phu Quoc is home to over 4500 animals that span over 200 species.
Vinpearl is proud that they are Vietnam’s largest wildlife conservation park. Vinpearl and its dedicated staff have endeavored to protect some of the world’s most endangered species.
FLC Zoo Safari Park, Quy Nhon
The FLC Zoo Safari Park is located in Nhon Ly and is connected to the FLC Quy Nhon Beach and Golf Resort. This park was opened on March 25th, 2017, and covers 129.1 hectares of land. The designers of this park strictly adhere to the world’s standard model of safari parks and house nearly 1000 animals.
The FLC Zoo Safari park is heavily invested in a semi-wild model that preserves its animal’s natural habitats. Park officials have stated that they try to bring a sense of closeness to nature for both guests and animals. In 2019 the FLC Zoo Safari park opened the world’s most extensive butterfly garden that houses over a thousand species of butterflies.
Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens, Ho Chi Minh City
The Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden is Vietnam’s largest zoo and botanical garden. First commissioned in 1864 by admiral Pierre-Paul de La Grandière, the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden is among the world’s oldest zoos since it first opened to the public in 1869.
Travelers looking to visit this icon zoo must travel to Nguyen Binh Khiem Street, District 1 of Ho Chi Minh City. There they will find over a hundred species of reptiles, birds, and mammals. The zoo also houses rare plants and a Vietnamese history and culture museum.
Visitors will also find a temple to the Hung Kings formally dedicated to Indochinese soldiers who died fighting for France during the first world war. The zoo is neatly divided into an orchid garden, an amusement park, and animal and plant conservation areas.
Dai Nam Zoo, Ho Chi Minh City
Dai Nam Zoo is located inside Dai Nam Park, Vietnam’s top tourism destination. This park has a mix of traditional and modern structures. Only a 2-hour drive away from the middle of Ho Chi Minh City, this park was opened in 2008 and brings in people from all over the world to explore its vast range of entertainment options.
The zoo might only be 12.5 hectares in size, but it boasts over 76 species of birds, mammals, and reptiles. Rare African lions, white tigers, and hippos can be found inside this incredible zoo. One of the outstanding features of this zoo is that it was the first “night zoo” to open in the country.
Are Lions Culturally Significant To Vietnamese People
Although lions are not native to Vietnam, their presence can be seen throughout Vietnamese history, tradition, and culture.
The depictions of lions were adopted by the Vietnamese people from Buddhism. According to Buddhism, lions are a precursor to Buddha, and their power is associated with that of the Buddha. The Buddha’s seat was called the “lion seat,” and his scriptures and doctrines were compared to the roar of a lion.
In the 11th to 14th centuries, during the Ly and Tran dynasties, depictions of lions became very popular. Lions were the focus through which artists channeled the sense of power and royal might. Each artwork’s style and features become symbols, each representing a different aspect of the ruler’s strengths.
Is Owning A Lion Illegal In Vietnam?
Vietnam boasts a wide range of biodiversity within its borders. This diversity has led to an increased number of people living in the country and the illegal poaching of wildlife. The Vietnamese government has implemented a new set of laws to help wildlife conservation and protect its most vulnerable animals.
According to the Vietnamese government, two closely interrelated tasks must be fulfilled to conserve and protect wildlife. These tasks are preserving the animals’ ecosystem and protecting them from dangerous outside influences such as environmental pollution, diseases, illegal hunting, trading, and consumption of endangered animal parts.
According to Dr. Van Ngoc Thinh, “We are at the sixth mass extinction since the dinosaurs disappeared, and this is the first human-made extinction. Our planet is collapsing.”
The Vietnamese government thus made it illegal to own any lions or possess any lion parts for personal consumption and for re-selling purposes. The only people allowed to own lions in Vietnam are the zoos and Safari parks with all the relevant licenses and government authorizations while they function as conservation centers.
Big Cats Are Native To Vietnam
Let’s look at some of the big cats native to Vietnam. Even though lions are few and far between, these big cats are sure to impress visitors worldwide.
The Indochinese tiger is most known for its short narrow stripes. Although their skulls are more petite than Bengal tigers, these tigers still grow up to weigh over 220 pounds.
The Leopard cat is only about the size of a domestic house cat. However, it has longer legs and more defined webs between each of its toes. Its head also sports two prominent stripes and a shallow white patch of fur around its muzzle. They generally weigh around 5.5 pounds.
The Marbled cat is comparable in size to the Leopard cat and weighs about the same. It has a long tail and round ears. It also sports a few black spots and stripes that trail along its spine, making it difficult to mistake it for an ordinary house cat.
This broad-headed cat looks almost like a stray cat you might find in a city. However, the yellow eyes and elliptical pupils are built for hunting. With its narrow face and long legs, this Jungle cat can chase down prey twice its size with surprising speed and efficiency. Standing around 14 inches tall, this is a cat that travelers don’t want to cross their paths.