by Khin Zar Thwe
YANGON, May 15 (Xinhua) -- Aung Khant Zaw, a Yangon-based exotic animal lover, has been keeping reptiles as pets for about five years in Myanmar.
His interest in reptiles began in 2015 with a pair of geckos, the first of many that would join his every-expanding reptile collection.
Now, his reptile craze has far surpassed a pair of geckos and includes more than 50 different kinds of reptiles, especially species of lizard, including iguanas, bearded dragons, skinks and chameleons.
"Most of the reptiles in my collection I bought myself from foreign countries. Sometimes, I just need to contact my friends who are breeders overseas and have farms there," Aung Kant Zaw told Xinhua.
His collection comprises a wide range of reptile species, spanning herbivores, carnivores, insectivores and omnivores, from iguanas, to Peter's banded skinks and Argus monitor lizards of different sizes.
Aung Kant Zaw's "pet" collection also included tarantulas, Indian star and leopard tortoises and ball pythons.
There are some disagreements, however, about whether keeping reptiles and exotic animals as pets is legal in Myanmar.
The Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC) says on their official website that licenses to keep dogs and cats can be applied for by the owners at the Veterinary and Slaughter Houses Department, but does not mention about those for keeping reptiles.
The department itself opted not to comment on the matter.
Keeping reptiles as pets is not only risky, but expensive, with prices starting at 30,000 kyats (20 U.S. dollars) to over ten million kyats (6,667 U.S. dollars), based on their qualities.
"Actually, I love giant lizards, but it's impossible to keep them. Instead, I came to love dinosaur-like reptiles like iguanas and bearded dragons," he said.
Aung Khant Zaw, 26, is now preparing to run his own exotic pet shop, which has been his childhood dream.
"Being a pet shop owner is what I've been dreaming of since my childhood days. Now, I'm preparing to apply for a license for my shop," he said.
"I just want to provide a place which can offer one-stop services to other reptile lovers like me. At my shop everything from the reptiles themselves to their accessories will be available," the young man added.
As the reptiles in his collection come from different habitats, with some originally from rainforests, deserts and other environments, he has to keep them housed at different humidities.
Before buying a reptile, he has to study about its habitat and behavior to create a proper habitat terrarium to meet its environmental needs, such as temperature, humidity and light.
Low numbers of vets specializing in reptiles is another challenge for him. "I, myself, have become a 'vet' for my pets by treating them after acquiring the necessary information from books," he said.
The exotic animal lover explained that the pros of keeping reptiles in Myanmar is that the temperature is suitable for their needs and some species of reptile can even be kept at room temperature.
His love of animals does not end here as breeding endangered species to prevent them from extinction is another part of his dream.
"I would like to search for rare or endangered species and breed them before they become extinct. Every animal is needed in our ecosystem, even ants," Aung Khant Zaw said.