The owner of a lion cub that was seen cruising in a Bentley convertible has been arrested for alleged wildlife ownership violations.
The home of Sawangjit Kosoongnern was raided after her friend was seen driving the wild animal in a white open-top Continental GTC around Pattaya, Thailand, on January 22.
The incident sparked alarm from passing road users who feared the lion would leap out and attack them.
Authorities swooped on Sawangjit’s house in Chonburi province on January 24 to inspect her ownership documents. She was taken to the station and questioned on suspicion of breaching possession regulations
Veterinarians also examined the lion and found it to be in good health. They said the microchip on its right shoulder indicated its legal status, being registered under Sawangjit’s name at the Protected Areas Regional Office 3 in Ratchaburi province.
Kongkiat Temtomnan, director of the Area Conservation Office 2, said that keeping the lion was legal, but required the proper permits.
He said: ‘It was inappropriate to take the lion cub out in an open-top car as it is still a dangerous wild animal that needs to be controlled.’
He added that Sawangjit was also not authorised to relocate the cub and that she would first have to notify authorities to conduct an inspection at the lion’s new home.
Meanwhile, Sawangjit explained that she worked in real estate and was gifted the lion by a close Sri Lankan friend – earlier reported to be an Indian national – as they were both animal lovers.
She said she had asked him to take the lion to the vet for a check-up but did not expect him to show it off in the Bentley.
She said: ‘I scolded him after the incident because he caused me a lot of trouble. I was still in the middle of applying for the lion’s transfer documents.’
Officials have not named the Sri Lankan, 53, who was reported to have left Thailand on January 22.
Police said they have charged Sawangjit with violating several sections of laws related to wildlife ownership. If found guilty, she may be fined 50,000 THB (1,400 USD), jailed for six months, or both.
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