Thailand Lion Public Sightings, from Hotel Rooms to Cafes and Streets, Increased in Recent Weeks Due to ‘Private Lion Ownership’

Lion public sightings in Thailand have increased in recent weeks due to the controversial practice of ‘private lion ownership.’ The wild animals involving juvenile lions can be seen in different places, ranging from hotel rooms to cafes and streets. Earlier this year, a video went viral after a lion cub was seen on the passenger seat of a moving Bentley car, leading to local police charging a woman with illegal possession of wildlife in Thailand.

The lion sightings have sparked public outrage and criticism, with wildlife experts calling for a ban on lion ownership in the Southeast Asian nation. Aside from conservation concerns, the private ownership or possession of lions and other big cats such as tigers and leopards are considered illegal in most nations worldwide.

In Thailand, owning a lion is not illegal but a person must acquire proper documents and official registration from local authorities.

In the case of the recent wild cat sightings, authorities charged the lion cub owners with illegal possession and transporting the wild animals without permission. Unlike in Africa, lions in Thailand (both Asiatic lions and African lions) are only found in captivity, including in public zoos or animal parks. In addition to keeping lions as pets, the animals are also facing the threat of wildlife trafficking and illegal trade, spanning across the globe.

Thailand Lion Public Sightings

Thailand Lion Public Sightings, from Hotel Rooms to Cafes and Streets, Increased in Recent Weeks Due to 'Private Lion Ownership'
(Photo : Photo by David Trinks on Unsplash)

The issue of lion ownership in Thailand is causing a public outcry over safety concerns following several lion public sightings since the onset of 2024, according to local reports. Some of these incidents have been reported on social media, gaining a total of millions of views, with the relatively small lions being unaware of the attention they are getting. Thai police also reportedly used one of these clips to investigate into the issue.

In January, members of the public spotted a lion cub riding in the back of a luxury vehicle in the city of Pattaya. In the same period, another cub was seen roaming a street in a residential area of Bang Lamung district in Chonburi province. After several days, two more juvenile lions were reported to be living in dire conditions in a café establishment in Soi Sukhumvit 4, a popular nightlife area in the capital city of Bangkok.

Also Read: Owner Mauled To Death by 400lb White Lions, Plus 5 Other Cases of Pets Killing Their Owners

Can You Have a Lion as a Pet?

Policies and laws surrounding private lion ownership depend on the country’s view on the matter. Regardless, wildlife conservationists and experts are still adamant when it comes to keeping lions as pets. In the United States, a law called the Captive Wildlife Safety Act (CWSA) prohibits the importing, exporting, buying, selling, transport, receive, or acquire living big cats either interstate or the US border.

However, the CWSA does make exceptions for some individuals and entities and the law applies to the following wild cats, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service:

  •  Lions
  •  Tigers
  •  Leopards
  •  Snow leopards
  •  Clouded leopards
  •  Jaguars
  •  Cheetahs
  •  Cougars

Related Article: Big Cats on the Prowl: Five Mountain Lions Roam Around Colorado Neighborhood First Night of April

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