January 26, 2024
BANGKOK – A woman who claimed to own a lion cub that appeared in a viral video shot in Pattaya has been charged with failure to report its possession.
Kongkiat Temtomnan, chief of the Protected Area Regional Office 2, said on Thursday that Sawangjit Kosungnoen was charged with violating the Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act.
Failure to report possession of a lion, considered a controlled and fierce animal under the law, is liable to a maximum jail term of a year, a fine of up to 100,000 baht, or both.
Lions are considered a controlled animal under the law, which requires that their place of stay must be safe and secure, and their movement is prohibited without permission.
The regional office, which is part of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP), is based in Chonburi’s Sriracha district and has jurisdiction over Pattaya City.
Police and DNP officials on Wednesday evening examined the lion at the woman’s house in Chonburi’s Bang Lamung district. They looked for a microchip inserted in the lion’s right shoulder while examining relevant documents regarding possession of the animal. Following their 30-minute examination, the officials reported that the lion cub weighed about 30kg and was in good health.
Kongkiat said that data from the microchip corresponded with the information on the lion’s registration with the DNP’s Ban Pong regional office in Ratchaburi province.
He said the woman’s alleged offence involved her possession of the lion without permission after it was moved from its original registered location.
“The person who is currently in possession of the lion is not the owner. In principle, the animal should be returned to the original location,” the official said.
He added that the procedures call for DNP officials to inspect a new location where controlled animals like lions will be placed to determine if the place is proper as per the law and relevant regulations before the animals can be moved there.
The woman, describing herself as someone in the property business, said her foreign friend had bought the nine-month-old female lion as a gift for her from an unidentified farm. She was raising it as her pet along with dogs and cats at her house.
She said that on the day the viral video was shot, her foreign friend took the lion to a veterinarian when it did not look well, as she was too busy to do so.
“I didn’t expect him to drive the lion in a convertible like that,” the woman said, adding that she had scolded him for “making trouble”.
Her foreign friend, a 53-year-old Sri Lankan businessman, reportedly left Thailand on January 22 and flew back to his country.
The video in question, posted on Facebook on Tuesday, showed a foreigner driving his white convertible Bentley with the lion cub wearing a chained collar in the back seat.
The woman explained that she was doing paperwork regarding her possession of the lion. She said the process was delayed because the farm’s document identified the cub by the wrong sex.
“I have completely got all the required documents now, so I should get the permit soon,” she added.