Construction of the zoo started in March 1865. The founder of the Botanic Garden was French botanist Jean Baptiste Louis Pierre (1833-1905). Originally, the garden was called Zoo, and occupied 12 hectares which contained several rare animals, and in which were planted precious and exotic trees introduced from India, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia, such as cacao, coffee tree, vanilla, and sugar cane (Jardin Acclimater). In 1924, the garden size was increased by 10 ha. On 27th November 1927, French colonists built Musée de Blanchard de la Bross within the boundary of the zoo as the design of Summer Palace in Beijing, China. In 1929, another building Temple du Souvenir with the architectural style as kings' mausoleums in the city of Huế was constructed.
In 1956, government of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam repaired and re-designed Mussee de Blanchard de la Bross and renamed it National Museum of Saigon (Vietnamese language: Viện Bảo tàng Quốc gia Sài Gòn); the zoo was renamed Zoo and Botanical Gardens' (Vietnamese: Thảo Cầm Viên).
Today, within the zoo there exists a Hùng Vương temple, branch of Vietnam History Museum in Ho Chi Minh City (built in 1929) with 33,000 exhibits and artifacts. Ho Chi Minh City government has planned a new larger zoo project called Saigon Safari Park in Cu Chi county. Once completion, all animals in Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens will be removed to this new park while the existing botanic garden will be preserved. Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens is a member of ASEAN Association of Zoos. This garden is an attraction for tourists.