PHUKET – Photos of the lion cubs in the cafes were shared on social media, with many people expressing their disapproval. One comment read: “This is cruelty to animals. Lion cubs should be with their mothers and pride where they belong, not in a café. We strongly oppose this.”
On February 12, 2024, Shinthep Kanghae, director of the Khao Phra Thaeo Wildlife Sanctuary, Tourist Police and Phuket City Police Station visited the café in Phuket to investigate. They found the café full of tourists and spoke to Mr. Kai, a Chinese friend of the café owner. Mr. Kai was invited to Phuket City Police Station for questioning.
Mr. Kai told police that the owner of the lion, who is his friend, lives in Krabi province and will return to Phuket soon. He said the lion cub was bought in Bangkok 15 days ago and was brought to the cafe every day for 2-3 hours for tourists to see before being taken back to the owner’s house in Chalong.
Officers are currently gathering evidence to obtain a search warrant for the house in Chalong where the lion is being kept. They will also investigate whether the lion was brought to the area legally and whether the proper permits were obtained for its transportation. Lions are considered a controlled species in Thailand.
The incident in Phuket is similar to an incident that took place in a café in Bangkok’s Khlong Toei district. In that case, a team of officials from the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation seized a one-month-old female lion cub.
Mr. Naruporn Tipmontha, director of the Forest Fire Prevention and Control Department, said officials first visited the cafe on January 29, 2024. They only found a receipt for the sale of the lion cub from a foreign animal trading company to the café and a document with a microchip number. However, they did not find the microchip itself and there were no official documents authorizing ownership of the lion cub.
The officials therefore confiscated the lion cub from the café and gave the owner 15 days to produce the necessary documents. However, the owner was unable to provide proof of ownership or transfer of the controlled wild animal.
It was also found that the microchip number belonged to a three-month-old male lion in Nakhon Pathom province. The lion is believed to be around 5 months old and not a female lion at 1 month and 19 days old. Officials went to the same café for further investigation.
The owner of the cafe in Khlong Toei was charged with violating the Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act for failing to report possession of a controlled wildlife species. Officers confiscated the lion cub and its cage and took them to the Wildlife Conservation Office of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation for care.