Eagles are strictly protected by law as an endangered species, but that hasn't stopped a pet trend among rich Saigonese from fueling a thriving trade in the rare creature, local newspaper Tuoi Tre reported.
In a report published on Monday, the newspaper said over 15 rings are providing the large birds of prey to wealthy buyers in the southern city.
D., one of the suppliers, told Tuoi Tre reporters that the birds, usually babies, are bought in central highlands provinces like Dak Lak and Phu Quoc Islands in the southern province of Kien Giang before being smuggled into the city by bus.
The man, who boasted that he specialized in trading rare wildlife, said he sold a one-week-old birds for VND1.7 million (US$89.4) and charged over VND2.5 million for two-week old animals.
Another supplier in Go Vap District, H., said he only sold particularly large big eagles that cost tens of millions of dong each. He also offers eagle training services.
The suppliers were quoted as saying that they only sell eagles through brokers and that the bird is currently a favorite pet among rich business people, as it is not only as status symbol but is thought of as a good luck charm.
Eagle dealers said they could sell a whole batch of around ten eagles in just two or three days after bringing them into the city, the news source reported.
A textile manufacturer in District 6 who requested anonymity said he is currently raising six eagles weighing between 1.2-3 kilograms that cost him a total of VND36 million ($1,894).
Another man in Binh Thanh District, meanwhile, said he is raising an eagle over one year old and spends two to four hours a day caring for it.
The bird is given a whole room to itself, the man told Tuoi Tre, but it is also tied to the window with a meter-long string.
"Every week my friends and I bring the birds to Gia Dinh Park (in Go Vap District) to train them," the man said, adding they often hide the birds in wooden boxes when transporting them.
The newspaper also reported a case in which a gold trader in Tan Binh District spent over VND10 million on two cages for two eagles. She even injected the birds with addictive drugs so they would become dependent and not leave her, it said.
In an interview with Tuoi Tre, Nguyen Dinh Cuong, head of HCMC Forest Rangers, said that numerous cases of illegal eagle trading had been uncovered recently. But he said the traders were stealthy and secretive and difficult to pin evidence on.