Saturday, March 8, 2008
Fearing that their growing population might spread disease and destroy crops, Vietnam has banned the sale and possession of hamsters, which have launched somewhat of a subculture among the country's youth.
Starting Monday, the fine for trading or owning a hamster will reach up to 30 million dong (1,875 US dollars), the Ministry of Agriculture said. They express concern that hamsters have been imported illegally from China, Thailand, or Taiwan, and are left unlicensed and unchecked for diseases.
"Traders illegally carry hamsters across borders and do not register with customs to quarantine these animals," said a senior official of the Animal Health Department.
Although the Animal Health Department has said they will kill any hamster that has been imported illegally, there are no plans for a mass elimination of hamsters.
"Destroying them all is really a big problem," agriculture ministry official Nguyen Thanh Son said. "I think the Vietnam animal health department should take some samples, conduct tests, and see how dangerous the hamsters in Vietnam really are."
Hamsters arrived in Vietnam years ago for use in scientific research, but have only become popular recently. The rodents' increasing popularity with youngsters has been attributed to 2008 being the Year of the Rat in the Chinese Zodiac.
Their adoration can be seen online, where there are numerous forums allowing hamster owners to talk about their beloved pets. The craze has even spawned offline "hamster clubs".
== Sources ==
"Vietnam cracks down on hamster craze" — Agence France-Presse, March 7, 2008
"Pet hamsters banned in Vietnam" — BBC News Online, March 7, 2008
"Hamster bans to check disease spread" — Viet Nam News, March 3, 2008
"Vietnam to tighten hamster controls: official" — Thanh Nien, February 29, 2008