Thai police on Monday arrested a pet shop owner when they found 14 albino lions imported from Africa and hundreds of other protected animals in a warehouse near Bangkok. The other animals include rare capuchin monkeys and meerkats.
According to police Col. Ek Ekasart they discovered in the warehouse many exotic animals including birds, tortoise, monkeys, peafowls and the lions.
“We received a complaint about the smell from the neighbours and after investigating we discovered the animals hidden there,” he said.
He added that they were brought to the country to be sold to zoos but were instead given to private buyers.
41 year old Montri Boonprom, the pet shop owner, now faces charges of possessing wildlife and carcasses. He could get up to four years of jail and a fine of 40,000 baht ($1,300).
Montri owns an exotic pet shop in Bangkok’s renowned Chatuchak weekend market. He was earlier also convicted of wildlife trading.
The pet shop owner told authorities he had imported the lions from Africa for a zoo in northeast Thailand. He had the valid papers for the import though he could not explain why he had only 14 lions when the papers showed 16.
International wildlife trade is a growing black market in Thailand, though the country is a member of a convention regulating international trade in endangered species. Under Thailand’s law many exotic species are not protected.
However the police also found two animals protected under the country’s law in the warehouse – a hornbill and a leopard. They were ready to be delivered to a client on Monday.
“We have been monitoring the location for a few days after the neighbors complained about the noise from the animals,” Ek told reporters during the raid in a residential area of Bangkok’s Klong Sam Wa district. “And if you looked through the gate, you could spot lions in the cage.”
The animals that have been confiscated will now be cared for by the country’s Department of Natural Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation. Once the legal procedures are complete the animals might be released in the wild or given to zoos, police sources added.
The growing illegal wildlife trade is a big menace that has grown into an international racket. One of the most organised crimes of recent decade, the animals involved are usually sold as exotic pets or used for medicines.