At 5:30 PM, on January 23rd, 2024, Thai National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation officials, Pattaya tourist police, and relevant agencies inspected a house owner in Khao Pratumnak Soi 5, Banglamung, Chonburi, regarding a foreigner appearing to drive a Bentley with a lion cub in Pattaya.
According to a report by the police, a lion cub, a 4-month-old female, and three other dogs were found inside two pens, however, the foreign owner was nowhere to be found at the residence.
It was assumed that the foreigner in the video was a Sri Lankan national and the Bentley was a rental car from Phuket according to the license plate, said the police.
Initially, the lion cub was found to be legally registered in Ratchaburi and the original owner was a Thai woman, publicly identified only as Ms. Sawangjit, said the police. The police were reaching out to Sawangjit for further interrogation regarding the ownership of the lion cub and how the foreigner was involved.
In response to the incident, the lion cub owner’s lawyer, whose name was not released, received authorization from the owner of the lion to negotiate with the police. The lawyer stated that documentation regarding the ownership of the lion cub would be presented by January 24th. Initially, the police negotiated with the lawyer to inspect the lion cub.
The foreigner himself has not been publicly identified and his whereabouts are currently unknown, with some other Thai media speculating that he may have left Thailand due to the video of the lion going viral worldwide, attracting significant criticism and concerns, especially from wildlife organizations and groups. This is unclear and not confirmed as other reports have said the foreigner is planning to meet with police with the correct documentation. However, the foreigner has cooperated with police indirectly through his lawyer.
Meanwhile, The Thai Department of National Parks publicly revealed the recent number of people applying for permission to own lions throughout the country, both individuals and legal entities, was only 24, with a total of 153 lions. Some of these were private owners and some were wildlife organizations and zoos.
The same day, Mr. Atthaphon Charoenchansa, the Director-General of the Department of National Parks, initiated the idea of banning private individuals from owning potentially dangerous feral animals as they were considered unnecessary unless they were legal entities such as zoos or wildlife reserves.
The controlled wild animals considered dangerous feral animals were cheetahs, lions, jaguars, mountain gorillas, gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, Sumatran orangutans, Borneo orangutans, and green anacondas, said Atthaphon.