Home-raising wild animals: Risks far outweigh fun, benefits

Several experts and doctors have warned about the potential risks owners and their families run when keeping wild animals in enclosure at private homes, including serious infections and losing limbs or even lives.

In recent years, a number of people in cities have taken up the practice of keeping wild animals, including bears, boas, tigers, crocodiles, elephants, and large breeds of monkeys in captivity in their homes behind the backs of local authorities.

Many also keep large, aggressive dog breeds imported from other countries such as Rottweilers, Pit Bulls, and Bulldogs.

Irrespective of their purpose, whether for fun or for business, the improper, illegal keeping of such animals does pose inevitable risks, including fatal ones.

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In one of the latest incidents, which happened in January, a 3-year-old boy’s arm was ripped off and mutilated beyond repair to the stump by a 100-kg bear kept in a cage in the victim’s house in the outlying district of Hoc Mon in Ho Chi Minh City.

The bear was electrocuted so that the boy’s severed arm could be pulled out of the animal’s jaws.

The little boy’s parents were not home during the incident.

Late last month, another bear broke out from its cage in a home in District 12, Ho Chi Minh City, sending neighbors into a panic.

Vo Dinh Son, a veterinary specialist on wild animals and visiting lecturer at Agriculture and Forestry University in Ho Chi Minh City, noted that most incidents involving wild animals are triggered by keepers’ negligence during moments when they drop their guard.

Son added no matter how tamed and submissive they can be, wild animals’ aggressiveness is never completely gone.

Their attack mode can be easily turned on any time, especially when they are raised in captivity.

Even vets and wildlife experts are also prone to sudden, unprovoked attacks, which can bring about fatal consequences.

Tran Dang Trung, former head of the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Garden’s animal caretaking team, wild animals’ ferocity can also be triggered by frequent, painful bile extraction from bears or circus teams’ improper taming and training approaches.

He advised wild animals be kept at rescue centers or zoos.

“Bears are highly ferocious and can sometimes manage to break their well-cemented cages. Keepers and caretakers should therefore stay on guard all the time to avert mishaps or brutal, deadly attacks,” said a bear keeper in the southern city’s Cu Chi District.

Bear claws and slaps are even stronger and more powerful than those of tigers, lions, and leopards. 

Experts thus advise against the use of wooden containers to enclose or transport bears, and strongly urge that their cages be well reinforced.

Meanwhile, boas’ strength mostly comes from their overwhelming constricting power and brawny body.

Crocodiles’ formidable jaws and their tendency to drown their prey for the ultimate death blow should be feared.

Good knowledge of the beasts’ biological features and instinctual habits helps reduce the risk of bloody, deadly attacks, experts said.

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Infection risks

Apart from the substantial risk of animal attacks, keepers and caretakers also face real menaces from infectious diseases, including tuberculosis and hepatitis, from wild and exotic animals, no matter how small and adorable they may be.

V.T., who lives in the Mekong Delta province of Vinh Long, said he keeps some exotic squirrels at home because his nieces and nephews find them so cute and cuddly.

He is not aware at all of the infectious diseases which the cute animals could transmit to him and his family members, particularly kids.

According to Dr. Son, the veterinary specialist, wild animals are generally healthy and have self-healing power to a certain extent.

However, they are highly susceptible to illnesses due to stuffy captive conditions, an agitated mindset, and the inability to seek medicinal herbs as they can in the wild.

Son said that to avoid infection, keepers must make sure the animals’ enclosures and feed are kept clean, and they themselves are supposed to wash their hands carefully after making contact with the animals.