The Chinese owner of an 18-month-old lion that was confiscated by authorities had the “pet” returned to him after Prime Minister Hun Sen granted permission with some conditions attached.
The owner on July 5 went to collect the big cat from Phnom Tamao Zoological Park and Wildlife Rescue Centre and brought it to his villa in Boeung Keng Kang I commune, Phnom Penh. The owner was not punished for secretly raising the lion without permission.
“After grasping the story of this lion this evening [of July 4], I discussed with the agriculture minister and allowed the owner to raise the lion under the condition that he must make a proper cage to ensure the safety of people at home and next door,” Hun Sen said in a Facebook post.
In addition to allowing the lion to stay at the villa, Hun Sen thanked everyone at home and abroad for pitying the lion. He provided answers to many questions on the Facebook page regarding his decision.
He responded to a Facebook account believed to be the lion’s owner, saying: “This is a special case as he raised this lion from a cub to adulthood. This lion is like a family member, so I will allow you to raise the lion. I would like you to make a good cage for the safety of people at home and next door, and you must also consider the safety of the lion too.”
Phnom Penh Municipal Court prosecutor ordered the Forestry Administration in Phnom Penh on June 26 to confiscate the lion after the case went viral on social media and following complaints from neighbours and foreign tourists at large.
After being confiscated, the rescue team sent the 70kg lion to the rescue centre.
In a Facebook post on July 4, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Veng Sakhon said: “The owner was required to have a contract fulfilling conditions relating to raising the lion in line with technical standards, living environment of the lion and avoid posing a risk to caretakers and neighbours.”
Despite the permission, some Facebook account users expressed regret, saying the wild animal should live in the forest.
A Facebook account user going by name Yaya Chheng asked the prime minister to reconsider the decision.
“In fact, this wild animal should not be raised at home. It is a scary animal that can cause deaths,” Chheng posted.
Article 49 of the Forestry Law prohibits processing, hunting, transporting and trading of rare species, while article 58 of the Law on Natural Protected Areas states that the import and export of animals, plants and seeds requires a permit.
Wildlife Alliance’s Wildlife programme director Nick Marx told The Post on July 5 that wild animals should be free and live in the wild. He just hoped that Cambodia will follow the law and protect forests, wild animals and prevent people from making wild animal trafficking offences. Traps to catch wild animals in Cambodia are still widespread.
“I personally protect wild animals so that they can live in forests. It is better than raising them at home,” he said.