An attack on a three-year-old boy by a captive bear at his home outside Ho Chi Minh City has focused attention on the dangerous but common practice of keeping wild beasts as pets and as farm animals.
The incident happened on January 11 when the boy, identified only as D, put his arm into the bear’s cage through a hole caused by its feeder becoming rusty.
The child’s family, living in Hoc Mon District, managed to rescue him but doctors were unable to reattach his right arm that was severely damaged by the 100-kg bear before it was killed by electric shock by an unidentified person.
Several neighbors said it was scary to realize that they had been living near a dangerous wild animal for three years without being aware of it.
But in many cases, people who are aware of living near dangerous captive animals suffer permanently from anxiety.
According to Do Quang Tung, director of the CITES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species) office in Vietnam, more than 1,800 bears, 120 tigers, 100 elephants, and 500,000 snakes are being kept besides 1,000 crocodile farms.
“These are dangerous wild animals but many facilities have not followed relevant safety and registration regulations, threatening the safety and life of local residents.”
In Xuan Tin Commune in the northern province of Thanh Hoa, residents complain they are frightened by the roars of 11 tigers kept at a local farm.
“The tigers often roar at night and scare people. We also suffered from pollution from the farm,” a local farmer said.
The tigers are possessed illegally by Nguyen Mau Chien, who bought them from an unidentified person in Laos. It was unclear how he managed to obtain a license in 2012.
The animals are kept on a farm separated from the surroundings by walls about 2.5 meters high.
Many residents said the walls could collapse due to flooding since the farm is only around 300 meters from the Cau Chay dike which broke once in 2012.
Dozens of tigers are also being kept at the Pacific Beer Company in Binh Duong Province.
After a tiger killed an employee at the nearby Dai Nam Tourism Complex, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development considered seizing captive tigers in the province.
However, it later decided against it.
Meanwhile, crocodile farming has become popular in Dong Nai’s Vinh Cuu and Dinh Quan districts bordering the La Nga River and Tri An Reservoir in the past few years despite experts’ warnings that the farms lack safety.
Crocodiles at a farm in Dong Nai Province. Photo: Le Lam
According to Dinh Quan park rangers, more than 150 families in the district are raising around 94,000 crocodiles.
Another 34,000 of the reptiles are bred elsewhere in Dong Nai.
At least two crocodiles have escaped from these farms since last November, with one being shot down and the other caught by local residents.
Nguyen Van Hoang, a crocodile farmer in Dong Nai, said he often buys escaped crocodiles that local resident captured.
According to Ton Ha Quoc Dung of the Dong Nai Forest Protection Department, crocodiles are listed as endangered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, which bans the transnational trade of the animals.
But it is legal to farm the reptile and park rangers can only monitor the activity, he said.
In Vinh Phuc Province’s Vinh Son Commune, another smaller reptile species has become a nightmare for many locals.
Many families in the commune raise poisonous snakes, including cobras, and it is common for people catch them around their house.
“Recently, I heard strange sounds and turned on the flashlight to see a large cobra outside the mosquito net in my bed,” Ha Van Hoa, a local man,said.
“In another incident, I heard some neighboring children cry after a cobra entered their house while their parents were away.”