The owner of a young lion who was driven around the streets of Pattaya in a convertible could face up to six months in prison or a 50,000 baht fine.

Officials from the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation have been tasked with finding the person who took a young lion for a ride in a convertible through the streets of Pattaya after a video clip of the ride went viral on social media.

The video of the young lion travelling in a convertible through Pattaya was posted on Facebook on a page called Ann Isan Russia with the caption, “This is Pattaya!” Thai PSB reported.

The wild animal seemed to enjoy the sight of the heat-weary bipeds during the leisurely ride, with passing motorcyclists and drivers simply passing the lion with a glance as if it were a common pet.

According to Thai law, a person who has obtained a permit can legally keep a lion in a private home. However, the owner may not take the animal into a public place.

Attaphon Charoenchansa, director-general of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, said the legal owner of the predatory animal is a woman named Sawangjit Kosoongnern from Rathburi province.

Sawangjit has applied to the department for permission to move the lion to Pattaya, in Chonburi province, but so far, the request has not been granted,” Aththapkhon said.

“Sawangjit thus violated laws regarding keeping a wild animal and moving a predator to another location without prior permission. The woman faces up to six months imprisonment or a fine of up to 50,000 baht,” explained Aththapkhon.

“All wild animals are dangerous and can attack at any time. A person can get a permit to own a lion but must keep the predator in a certain place and not display it in public places,” Attapkhon said.

The convertible driver carrying the young lion turned out to be an Indian friend of the animal’s owner, Sawangjit.

Attthaphon said there are signs that lion ownership is becoming fashionable among affluent Thais and foreigners.

“A lion can cost around 500,000 baht. In Chonburi province, four Thais and a zoo have been authorised to keep a total of 15 lions,” said Attthaphon.

Most lions in Thailand are imported for breeding in zoos, but there is now a growing desire to keep the predators as personal pets.

Those who own lions illegally violate two paragraphs of Article 19 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, and the offence carries jail time and a fine.

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