June 11, 2013 00:00 By Khanathit Srihurundaj
Bangkok police yesterday morning cracked down on an alleged wildlife trade source in Bangkok's Khlong Sam Wa district and seized hundreds of wild birds and animals.
They included 14 white lions, (panthera leo), four civets, one leopard cat, two hornbills, and one slow loris, as well as 23 meerkats, 12 peacocks, and 17 marmosets.
The owner of the house on 2 rai (3,200 square metres), Montri Boonphrom-on, 41, claimed the animals were legally imported, mostly from South Africa.
After the investigation into an alleged unauthorised wildlife-trading house, Metropolitan Police Bureau 3 joined with Natural Resources and Environment Ministry officials to search the house in Soi Hathairat 39.
They apprehended caretakers Rungroj Wattanapongsawat, 34, and Usanee Saejiam, 27, and some Myanmar workers and seized the 200-300 animals and birds and some stuffed animals.
Montri later produced import and purchase papers to explain to officials that the animals – most of which he allegedly imported for breeding and selling – underwent legal procedures. He said he had a permit from CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) to import them and there were actually 22 lions.
He claimed that six lions were his and the rest were Mitraparp Zoo’s. The zoo, which took two lions away, asked him to take care of the 14 remaining lions. He said a lion cost Bt200,000 to buy and import.
Metropolitan Police Bureau 3 deputy chief Pol Colonel Ek Ekkasart said possession of a leopard cat, hornbill, civet or slow loris was illegal and Montri would certainly face legal action.
Police will check Montri’s claim of having the proper import papers for other animals, but they all would be seized first pending the probe. Ek also revealed that Montri had been arrested for wildlife trading four years ago and received a one-year suspended jail term.
Officials initially charged Montri and Runroj with having wild animals in their possession without permission, and conspiring to hide and trade wild animals as well as stuffed carcasses.
Some animals were sent to Ratchaburi’s wildlife nursing facility and the rest to Chon Buri’s Bang Phra Animal Centre.