During a house raid of Montri Boonprom-on’s residence near Bangkok, police found something they never would have expected: a menagerie of more than 200 wild animals – some with teeth. Among the creatures found by police, there were 14 rare albino lions and a legally protected species of leopard in a box.
Police made the surprising discovery after a routine call. "We received a complaint about the smell from the neighbours and after investigating, we discovered the animals hidden there," Police Colonel Ek Ekasart said.
Two Thai men, including Montri, were charged in the case with illegal wildlife trading in the case and could be sentenced to prison for up to four years and receive a fine of 40,000 baht ($1,300). Police believe the men brought the lions into Thailand with permits to sell them to zoos, but instead intended to sell them privately. One of the two men was charged with the same crime four years ago.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
Alongside the big cats found stalking Montri’s home were birds, meerkats, tortoises, peafowls and monkeys. Once the process is complete, the animals will either be released into the wild or handed over to zoos. The white lions can be seen in police captivity here.
Montri, 41, is no stranger to wildlife, owning an exotic pet shop in Bangkok’s legendary Chatuchak Weekend Market, one of the world’s largest weekend markets. While the majority of the goods on sale at the market are legitimate, this story highlights Thailand’s close links with the illegal wildlife trade.
Indeed, Asia has an appetite for uncommon animals, both as pets and for use of their body parts in various traditional medicines – perhaps the best known being traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), which makes use of anything from dried starfish and bear paws to dried scorpions and donkey umbilical cords. A list of other such goodies – also including dried flying lizards and rat fetuses – and their uses, can be seen here.
Thailand is trying to live down its reputation for assisting in this business – especially when it involves legally protected species – as seen in Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s announcement of legislation intended to bring the nation’s longstanding ivory trade to end this March.