Ten years ago, Nam was captivated by the look of iguanas and tortoises. He decided to buy some of the animals out of interest. He now has a 1,400 square meter garden that has several bird species, and over 100 iguanas, water monitors and African tortoises.
The creatures in Nam’s garden may have ferocious appearance, but all of them eat plants and insects, and are very friendly. Among all the animals, Nam loves his albino African tortoise the most. This is a species that can live for up to 150 years, and grow to the size of a pig. Once, this tortoise fell sick and he traveled nearly 100 kilometers from his house to Ho Chi Minh City to find a doctor, but no one was knowledgeable about reptiles. Finally, he thought of endoscopic surgery to remove a tumor.
The most popular animal in his garden is the Beared Dragon iguana, which is about the size of an adult’s hand. They only put on a tough appearance to scare the enemy, but they never actively attack anyone, so Nam lets them move out freely.
Everyday, his 5-year-old daughter Phuong, brings the iguanas out to the yard to sunbathe. The father is very busy every day climbing trees “chat” with the reptiles and the birds like eagles and owls. “Falling off the trees and rubbing my hands and legs now feels like a hobby to me,” Nam said with a smile.
Nam’s daughters like to walk with the reptiles and even eat and sleep with them. Sometimes Phuong asks to hug an iguana when she goes to sleep. “Once the teacher told me that Phuong would sit in a corner and cry. I asked her why and she said she missed the pets at home,” Nam said.
Nam has learnt how hatch the reptiles in his garden. “After 90 days of incubation, the moment I hear the small sound in the cage and the iguanas came out of the eggs makes me extremely happy,” he said.
The toads or geckos in the garden also frighten people, even though they are not as big as iguanas. “It [the animal] may suddenly appear anywhere, so this garden is probably not for the faint of heart,” said one of Nam’s guests. Since these species feed on insects, every night Nam has to turn on his flashlight to attract mosquitoes and grasshoppers.
The animals are potty trained, said Trang, Nam’s wife.
“I like it the most when I come home from work, the children have not yet come, but the pets come to rub their head on my feet. When I am happy, they run and follow me. When I am sad, they lie still for me to caress them,” she said.
“One day, after I fed the tortoises, I slept in the garden. When I opened my eyes, I saw dozens of tortoises lying around me, sleeping. That’s how I know they are extremely intelligent and friendly,” Trang said.
“Vietnamese people have a bad prejudice against reptiles,” Nam said. “My goal is to try to make people understand that reptiles are neither aggressive nor do they bring bad luck.”