Pet lion returned to owner after Cambodian Prime Minister intervenes – Asia Despatch

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Police and wildlife officials initially raided the property on June 27, saying they were rescuing the animal after videos of it appeared on the social media app TikTok, and neighbors raised the alarm.

In the days that followed, social media posts appeared saying the lion should be returned to the owner, who had denied accusations of mistreating the animal.

The lion had been raised from a cub by its owners, who had removed its canine teeth, “drastically reducing the lion’s quality of life,” tweeted Wildlife Alliance, the NGO that helped in the initial removal of the lion.

The lion was kept at a house in the Cambodian campital, Phnom Penh.

In a Facebook post on Sunday, the prime minister ordered the 18-month-old male lion be returned on the condition the owner make a proper cage.

Authorities had said it was illegal to keep lions as pets. But Hun Sen said it was a special case because the owner had fed the lion from a young age and treated him like a family member.

Last week, television viewers watched as the officials arrived, sedated the big cat and carried it away in a metal crate.

On Monday they watched again as the lion wandered slowly back into the property, accompanied by the owner’s pet dog.

The lion had been taken to a rescue center but has now been reunited with its owner.

“At first I was sad, then excited and touched,” the owner, who identified himself by his surname Guo, told Reuters.

Wildlife Alliance said it had no immediate comment on Monday. But Britain’s ambassador to Cambodia, Tina Redshaw, criticized the decision to return the lion in a tweet.

“Disappointed that lion confiscated from city centre residence is being returned, undermining (Cambodia’s) legislation preventing ownership/trade in endangered wildlife, harming global efforts to tackle Illegal Wildlife Trade, to say nothing of stress & suffering of inappropriate captivity,” Redshaw said.

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