Thai police find 14 white lions in Bangkok warehouse

A white lion bares its teeth after a raid at a zoo-like house on the outskirts of Bangkok, Thailand, June 10, 2013.
AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong

BANGKOK Thai police found 14 white lions imported from Africa and hundreds of other protected animals in a warehouse near Bangkok and have arrested a pet shop owner.

Birds, meerkats, tortoises, peafowls, capuchin monkeys and other species from overseas and Thailand were found at the warehouse, police Col. Ek Ekasart said.

They said Montri Boonprom-on, 41, faces charges of possessing wildlife and carcasses and could face up to four years in jail and a fine of 40,000 baht ($1,300).

Ek said Montri owns an exotic pet shop at Bangkok's renowned Chatuchak weekend market and was previously convicted of wildlife trading.

Montri told reporters the lions were shipped legally and were to be transferred to a zoo in Thailand's northeast. He did not explain why only 14 lions remained at his warehouse, while the documents showed he had imported 16.'s Shoshana Davis interviewed Linda Tucker, an ex-marketing executive in Paris who abandoned her career to found the Global White Lion Protection Trust, dedicating her life to saving these African felines.

There are very few white lions in the wild today as they are not protected and hunted almost to the point of extinction. White lions generally only live in the wild in the Timbavati region of South Africa. The animals are not protected by any international, national or local laws.

Thailand is a hub of the international black market in protected animals. While the country is a member of a convention regulating international trade in endangered species, Thai law does not extend protection to many alien species.

Police also found a hornbill and a leopard, both protected by Thai law, which were packed in a box and were scheduled to be delivered to clients on Monday.

"We have been monitoring the location for a few days after the neighbors complained about the noise from the animals," Ek told reporters during the raid in a residential area of Bangkok's Klong Sam Wa district. "And if you looked through the gate, you could spot lions in the cage."

The animals were confiscated and will be under the care of the Department of Natural Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.