More animal owners walk on the wild side with rare, exotic pets

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More animal owners walk on the wild side with rare, exotic pets

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From left to right, some examples of rare and exotic pets: A miniature pig; hedgehogs; a boa constrictor; a scorpion; a Fennec fox; turtles; and a crocodile monitor lizard. [JoongAng Ilbo]

On Aug. 20, inside a small store in Seoul’s Myeonmok-dong, Jungnang District, a pet shop owner in his 30s hands over a black plastic bag filled with 18 dead mice to a man in his early 20s.

“It’s usually 23,400 won [$23] but I’ll give it to you for 23,000 won. How long does it take to your place? I don’t think they’ll melt that quickly, though,” says the store owner.

The frozen mice Kim Min-cheol, 22, purchased were for the boa constrictor he raises to “lessen the loneliness” he feels from living alone.

Boa constrictors usually cost hundreds of thousands of won, but the price jumps up to more than 2 million won for the larger and more colorful types.

Choi Jin-won, 30, a reptile breeder, is the owner of the store. Although his shop is not located on a main street, it has regular customers - all rare-animal aficionados.

Choi began raising a bearded dragon lizard, which measures about 45 centimeters to 60 centimeters long, 10 years ago as a hobby. He was later inspired to open a pet shop selling rare animals ranging from scorpions and spiders to Fennec foxes and skunks.

“Many Koreans began to raise reptiles as pets that many others don’t dare and somewhat show off their individualities,” said Choi. “There are also many young children who come to look for a rare pet after searching on the Internet about how to raise them.”

Shin Ji-ye, 17, who works as a part-timer at Choi’s pet shop, also keeps a reptile.

“When I say I have a reptile at home as a pet, my friends seem to admire me and become interested in me,” said Shin.

As the pet market grows in the country, more and more people are looking into raising rare animals rather than cats or dogs. A quick Internet search finds many people trading rare and expensive animals online.

The phenomenon of collecting rare and expensive animals began from the wealthy class abroad. Shin Beom, 27, a young businessman who collects rare, expensive animals and re-exports them overseas said, “The way wealthy Chinese brag about their wealth has changed over the recent years .?.?. In the past, it was with cars and houses, but what’s popular now is raising bright red mega fish inside your home,” said Shin.

As his business grew, Shin established a farm in Hwaseong, Gyeonggi, to raise animal feed, such as mice and crickets, for these rare pets. A small mouse from his farm costs 600 won while a larger one is priced at 4,000 won. A thousand live crickets are 1,000 won more expensive than frozen ones.

“Live [crickets] are more expensive as they can die during delivery,” said Shin.

BY KIM MIN-SANG [sharon@joongang.co.kr]















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