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High-schooler keeps exotic reptiles as novel pets in Vietnam

Nguyen Nhat Tan’s South American iguana
Nguyen Nhat Tan’s South American iguana

A young student in south-central Vietnam has developed his collection of exotic animals from different species over the past four years as novel pets in the country, a decision that his family initially opposed but Internet users recently welcomed.

Nguyen Nhat Tan, a twelfth grader at Khanh Hoa Province’s Tran Binh Trong High School, adores all creatures he keeps, including reptiles like a South American iguana, Bengal monitor, leopard and gecko, snake; eight-legged animals such as Tarantulas spiders; and South America’s Argentine wide-mouthed frog.

Tan said reptiles hold a charm over him because the cold-blooded animals look very ‘cool.’

Nguyen Nhat Tan
Nguyen Nhat Tan

The boy can spend hours observing his pets catch prey as they can show their greatest attraction and skillful at that time.

Tan began keeping strange beings around four years ago, when he bought a green water dragon, which is an diurnal reptile commonly found in trees along shores of freshwater bodies, and an elongated tortoise – an animal that needs various foods even in captivity.

His collection has over 12 species.

The boy recently posted photos of it on social media in hopes of making others know they are many types of pets besides dogs and cats, and changing their perception of the animals he is keeping.

“I’m really glad to get positive reactions from the online community,” he said.

“Many think replies are scary, but they look lovely to me. They won’t attack us if we don’t harm them. Attacking is a form of defense only.”

At first his parents disapproved of the son’s new hobby but later grew to develop a liking for his creatures.

“My mom and dad even help me clean the pets’ cages. My family has become closer thanks to reptiles.”

Injuries, which are an ordinary occurrence to Tan, range from scratches on the fingers sometimes involving bleeding, to painful swellings.

“My hand hurt a lot, but I didn’t suddenly pull it back because I feared the pet would have a problem,” the student recalled of the first encounters with a spider he had bought.

“That’s why I kept my hand in place, though I was bleeding. Only after a while did the spider release its fangs.

Luckily, his animals produce venom of low toxicity that poses no threat to human life.

The boy said he purchased each at a “very cheap price” of no more than VND2 million ($86) and cannot afford more expensive creatures as he is a student.

Keeping foreign animals, especially reptiles and arachnids, is gaining popularity in Vietnam in recent years, although the number of hobbyists remains modest.

Here are photos of Tan’s collection: