Villagers in Kazakhstan are increasingly turning to an unusual animal to guard their land - wolves, it's been reported.
"You can buy a wolf cub for just $500 (£320), they say, and hunters are adamant that if treated well the wild animal can be tamed," the KTK television channel reports. Nurseit Zhylkyshybay, from the south-eastern Almaty region, tells the channel he bought a wolf cub, Kurtka, from hunters three years ago, and the animal is perfectly happy wandering the yard of his house. "He's never muzzled, I rarely put him on a chain and do take him for regular walks around the village. Our family and neighbours aren't scared of him at all," Mr Zhylkyshybay insists. "If the wolf is well fed and cared for, he won't attack you, although he does eat a lot more than a dog."
But wolf expert Almas Zhaparov says the animals are "far too dangerous" to keep at home. "A wolf is like a ticking bomb, it can go off at any moment," he tells KTK. "If nothing is done, the fashion could spread to wealthy Kazakhs," who might try to keep wolves in the grounds of their houses, with possibly deadly consequences, he warns. Social media users are overwhelmingly apprehensive about the trend, although a few accuse the government of failing to cull wolves in the first place. "You can't blame villagers for using wolves to fend off wolves," says one person on the Nur news portal. Another user engages in a little black humour: "The sheep are in the pen, and the wolves have full bellies - but no one can find the shepherd."
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