Welcome to the jungles of urban Thailand, where the roar you might hear could very well be coming from a majestic lion—much to the surprise of local authorities. Such was the case for Sawangjit Kosungnoen, the unwitting star of a wild animal drama that unfolded in the heart of Chonburi’s Sriracha district.
Our tale begins with a whiff of intrigue when the chief of the Protected Area Regional Office 2, a certain dedicated conservationist by the name of Kongkiat Temtomnan, announced that Sawangjit had run afoul of the law. At the heart of the issue was her possession of a lion, a creature that not only commands respect but also adherence to the Wild Animal Reservation and Protection Act.
In a world where keeping up with the Joneses might involve poodle grooming or competitive lawn care, Sawangjit’s situation was a touch more… feral. As it turns out, failing to declare your lion ownership can earn you a spell behind bars for up to a year, a fine that might give even the most lionhearted a moment’s pause – up to 100,000 baht – or a combination of the two. A ferocious outcome for a fierce animal.
The law is clear: lions are not only controlled but their abodes must be more fortress than cozy den, and you’d better have the paperwork sorted before these big cats take a single majestic stride beyond their allotted doman.
Enter a cast of characters, our law enforcers: police teamed up with those intrepid folks from the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation. Together, they followed the trail to an unassuming house in Bang Lamung district. There, in a modest residence, amidst the familiar and familial company of dogs and cats, a lioness cub was found, a furry fugitive in an otherwise domestic idyll.
Our officials were not there for pleasantries. A thirty-minute prowl around the property ensued, discovering a microchip nestled in the animal’s shoulder. Data matched, documents perused, and with the puzzled cub tipping the scales at roughly 30kg, the officials could report at least one thing: the creature was in robust health.
As the story unravelled, it was revealed that the lioness should have been lounging back in her registered location, probably missing the hunting grounds of the Ban Pong regional office in Ratchaburi province. Mr. Kongkiat broke it down simply: the cub was mistaken in thinking this person was its new pride leader.
Regulations insist upon a bureaucratic safari to ensure that a wandering lion’s new neighborhood meets official approval. But this wandering cub’s tale takes a whimsical twist: the alleged lion lady, a property mogul by trade, declared that the king of the beasts had been gifted upon her by a foreign friend. It seems this lioness cub was meant to be less like Mufasa, and more like fluffy, an outlandish pet that turned a few more heads than your average alley cat.
The details grow wilder, with revelations of veterinary visits, hot convertible rides, and a misdentification of sex that apparently tangled up the permitting process like a big cat in a ball of yarn. At the center of the mayhem, a Bentley-driving Sri Lankan businessman – allegedly the original lion-buyer and gift-giver – creating a scene that’s far from purr-fect.
Viral footage of this nature’s grandeur in a Bentley backseat highlighted the plight of the noble beast, now more online sensation than savannah sovereign. The owner found herself in a media maelstrom, lamenting over delayed paperwork while promising a speedy resolution to this tale of tails and documents.
As the sun sets on this tale of a woman, her not-so-tame houseguest, and the officials left to unravel the legalities, one thing is certain: life is never boring when you’re caught in the big cat’s cradle of Thai wildlife law.