A man in Thailand has been charged with illegal possession of and trade in protected wildlife after a raid on his house uncovered more than 200 exotic animals.
Neighbors went to the police to complain of smells coming from the man’s house and there, the police and officers from the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry found 14 white lions, one leopard, 23 meerkats, 17 marmoset monkeys, 12 peacocks, and several kinds of other birds and reptiles. The animals were reported as in healthy condition.
Montri Boonprom, the owner of a pet store in Bangkok, and another unidentified man were arrested and both could face up to four years in jail and a $1,300 fine. Montri Boonprom has been arrested before on similar charges.
Thailand has a strong black market presence and while there are laws in place to protect animals, they often to not extend to non-native species. The illegal animals trade in Thailand is mainly fueled by the demand for unusual, exotic pets and animal parts needed for traditional medicines.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, the exotic animal trade is second only to the illegal drug trade in terms of raw dollars, making it a market dealing in billions of dollars each year. It is estimated there are over 10,000-15,000 tigers kept as private pets in the United States and as few as 5,000 left in the wild.
Thailand’s Department of Natural Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation has taken in the animals. Some have the possibility of being re-released back into the wild and others will be sent to zoos.