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Young Vietnamese infatuated with collecting natural specimens

Young Vietnamese infatuated with collecting natural specimens

Monday, December 11, 2023, 18:01 GMT+7
Young Vietnamese infatuated with collecting natural specimens
Khai Hoan with his butterfly specimens. Photo: C.Trieu / Tuoi Tre

Collecting bones and bodies from animals, especially insects, and turning them into scientific specimens have become a sensation among young people in Vietnam.

The job helps them earn thousands of U.S. dollars per month.

Since early this year, insects have flocked to a small garden on the terrace of Khai Hoan’s house, a 24-year-old in District 6, Ho Chi Minh City.

Many kinds of butterflies and beetles came to reproduce on the trees and then died. 

Previously, Hoan got rid of them.

However, one day, he realized that they could keep their shapes and colors for a long time.

The idea of keeping them in glass jars came to his mind and he started to realize the idea.

As the pastime was not yet popular, Hoan had to learn techniques to make the specimens himself.

He found out that most creatures can be turned into specimens, but they have to be sterilized, reinforced, and dried.

The unique requirement is to keep their shape and color unchanged. 

All phases are done manually and meticulously.

“If the specimens are too dry, they can be easily broken, but if they are not dry enough, they will get moldy,” Hoan said.

Thanh Cong, 34, another specimen aficionado in District 8, Ho Chi Minh City, began the job as he saw their beauty.

He started with small specimens of lizards and beetles and then fish, rabbits, turtles, snakes, and crocodiles.

His collection currently includes around 100 specimens.

“Many people wanted to buy [the samples] but I will not sell them. I make them for fun and decoration and will give them to those I love,” Cong said.

There are many groups of specimen aficionados on social media but these groups have very few members, with the most crowded one having about 7,000 members as the pastime is new and many people think that it is not good to display dead animal bodies in their houses.

One of Mai Phuong’s specimens with dyed bones. Photo: Supplied

One of Tran Thi Mai Phuong’s specimens with dyed bones. Photo: Supplied

However, creativity has no limit, so the community of specimen enthusiasts is increasingly large. They learn how to turn bones and the dead bodies of animals and insects into decorations, even expensive jewelry.

Khai Hoan said the cost of samples was high. As a case in point, each butterfly specimen costs VND500,000 (US$20.5).

Specimens in which animals’ flesh is made transparent and bones, tissues, and cartilage are dyed are in high demand. They also have high costs as it takes several months to complete each of them.

Tran Thi Mai Phuong, 19, from northern Hai Duong Province, said such products are expensive as the first phase requires the use of chemicals which are harmful to users, protective clothes, and rooms with special equipment that not many people can have access to.

However, they still sell like hot cakes.

Phuong’s smallest specimen costs about VND1 million ($40.9), but specimens of dogs and cats are priced at VND200 million ($8,186) each.

She currently owns more than 3,000 specimens of dyed bones.

Meanwhile, Thanh Hoang, 27, has his own way of making specimens. He keeps only bones to make rings, bracelets, keychains, and pictures.

It takes him 30 minutes to a week to complete a product.

His products fetch VND300,000 ($12.3) to several million Vietnamese dong each. (VND1 million = $41).

“I sell dozens of products per month,” Hoang shared.

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Thanh Ha - Cong Trieu / Tuoi Tre News

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