A video featuring a chained lion cub in the backseat of an open-top Bentley being driven around the streets of Pattaya, Thailand, has gone viral online.
In the video, the lion can be seen sitting calmly, sticking its head out, in the backseat of the white luxury car as it drives past busy traffic in Pattaya’s Bang Lamung district. At times, the large animal can be seen climbing back and forth from the vehicle’s front and back seats. At one time, the man driving the car also carried the lion out of his vehicle for curious bystanders to take photos.
The lion was being driven about by a Sri Lankan man who has since left the country, and is believed to be a friend of the Thai woman, Sawangjit Kosoongnern who now faces jail time.
The woman claimed to have bought the animal from a person in Nakhon Pathom province, who helped its delivery to Pattaya.
Sawangjit is legally allowed to keep the lion in Ratchaburi province, according to the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation. However, she reportedly violated laws by taking the cub to Pattaya without approval. She may be subject to a maximum prison sentence of six months and/or a fine of up to 50,000 baht (NZ$2,300).
“Sawangjit did violate laws concerning the taking of a wild animal out in public and moving its location without prior permission,” Atthaphon Charoenchansa, the department’s chief, told the South China Morning Post. “All wild animals are dangerous and have the potential to attack at any time. An individual can obtain permission to own a lion, but they must keep it in a specified location, not in a public area.”
Police were also reportedly looking to charge the Sri Lankan man for bringing a controlled wild animal into public places, which carries jail time of up to six months and a fine of 50,000 baht(NZ$2,300).
While it is not illegal to own a lion in Thailand, it needs to be officially registered. There are currently 224 legally owned lions in Thailand.