Police seized hundreds of rare and protected animals from a warehouse in Bangkok, Thailand. The warehouse belonged to a pet shop owner, identified as Montri Boonprom-on, 41, and included 14 rare lions.
The lions taken by police were African white lions, the Associated Press reports. Other animals owned by the pet shop owner included a leopard, capuchin monkeys, a rare hornbill, meerkats and tortoises. Montri will be charged with several counts of possession of wildlife, AP notes, which carries a penalty of up to four years in jail and a possible fine of $1,300.
Montri was selling the rare animals on the black market and owned a pet shop specializing in exotic animals at the Chatuchak weekend market, AP reports. Many of the animals found in the warehouse are protected by law, making the sale and ownership of the animals illegal. Thailand is a popular black market destination for those trafficking in exotic wildlife and those wanting to add to their collection of rare animals.
Some of the animals, including the leopard, had already been packed in crates for shipment to Montri’s clients. Montri had previously been convicted for wildlife trading, AP reports. Noise complaints from neighbors tipped off police about the illegal activity. According to Police Col. Ek Ekasart, “We have been monitoring the location for a few days after the neighbors complained about the noise from the animals,” saying the lions could be seen through a hole in the gate, AP notes.
After the arrest, Montri said the white lions were going to be transported to a zoo in northeast Thailand, but his documents accounted for 16 white lions while only 14 were found at the warehouse, AP reports. Police speculate Montri obtained the lions by using permits intended for the animals to be sold at a zoo, but the pet shop owner would sell the protected animals to private owners, Agence France-Presse reports.
A second man was also arrested in conjunction with the animal seizure, AFP notes. The animals are currently being housed by the Department of Natural Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.