Authorities in Ho Chi Minh City said a captive bear that bit off a three-year-old boy’s arm at the victim’s home on Sunday was illegally kept.
Dao Van Dang, deputy chief of the city’s forest ranger department, told Thanh Nien that since the boy’s parents who owned the animal were at hospital with him, they could not question them about its origin yet.
The 100-kilogram bear was electrocuted to death as people attempted to retrieve the boy’s limb, but its body’s whereabouts was not clear, he said.
According to the official, it was the first time forest rangers detected an illegally kept bear in the city.
The cage where a bear had been held captive by a family in Hoc Mon District, HCMC, before it attacked a toddler on January 11, 2015. Photo credit: HCMC Forest Ranger Department
Vietnamese government allowed people to keep bears as pets on condition that they reported with local forest ranger agencies to have the animals registered and attached with microchips, and getting licenses, Nguyen Xuan Luu, chief of the HCMC Forest Ranger Department, said in news website Dan Tri.
In the meantime, Dr. Khuong Thien Nhon with the HCMC Hospital for Traumatology and Orthopedics confirmed that the toddler lost a whole arm instead of the right hand as being reported initially.
Although his family managed to retrieve his arm, doctors could not reattach it, as it was severely damaged, he said.
The accident happened when the boy put his arm into the bear’s cage through a hole caused by its feeder getting rusty, according to initial information.
The animal then bit his arm and tried to pull him into the cage.
His grandmother, who was nearby, cried for help while attempting to get him out of the animal’s grip. A man who lived next door rushed to the site, managing to rescue the toddler.
It is still not clear who killed the bear.
Similar bear attacks on children have been reported in Vietnam in recent years.
Last April a 28-month old boy lost his forearm after being assaulted by a bear kept in captivity at his home in the northern resort town of Ha Long.
In another attack in the northern province of Phu Tho in September 2013, a five-year-old boy lost both his arms.
Nearly 2,000 bears are being held in captivity in Vietnam, according to figures compiled by Animals Asia, a Hong Kong-based animal welfare group which runs a US$2-million bear rescue center in the country’s northern region.
Although the government allows people to keep bears as pets, it outlawed bear bile extraction in 1992.