Cambodian PM Orders Pet Lion To Be Returned to Owner

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said an illegally trafficked lion confiscated last week should be returned to its owner.

Through a post on Facebook, Hun Sen stated that he discussed the issue with the agriculture minister, and they agreed to allow the owner to take the lion back “to feed it and keep it in perfect condition.” The prime minister said that a cage was convenient to ensure safety both to the people inside the house and to the neighbors.

Besides, he thanked people inside and outside the country who have given compassionate advice.

The lion’s owner, a Chinese national, also took to social media to thank the prime minister and Cambodian people’s leaders for allowing him to keep his pet. However, activists for animals and wildlife protection have criticized the decision.

According to the non-governmental animal rescue organization Wildlife Alliance, the man had illegally trafficked the lion and removed its teeth and claws.

When did authorities confiscate the lion?

After videos of the lion being pampered, hugged and bathed went viral on TikTok in April, Cambodian authorities launched an investigation into the exotic pet issue. They said a Chinese national had imported the 18-month-old, 70-kg animal and raised it in a village in the capital, Phnom Penh.

The lion was transferred to a wildlife rescue center by Forest Administration officials late last month.

Environment Ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra told media that videos shared on social media showed the animal being sprayed down with a hose when it was a puppy. “People have no right to raise rare wildlife as pets,” he added.

Wildlife Alliance, which helped with the raid, wrote in a Facebook post that a residential home’s conditions are inappropriate for a wild animal.

“In addition, the lion’s canine teeth had been removed, along with its claws, which drastically reduces a lion’s quality of life,” it said. Conservationists have warned of an increase in the number of exotic animals kept as pets in the neighboring country’s capital.

Mr. Keo Omalis, Director of the Forestry Administration, said back then that the Chinese man was fined $30,000 for illegally breeding wildlife.