‘Pet’ lion spotted in streets of Phnom Penh, sparks online debate on animal cruelty

Several photos and videos of a ‘pet’ lion wandering on the streets of Phnom Penh in Cambodia have gone viral on social media, triggering an online debate on animal cruelty.

Scottish journalist Andrew MacGregor Marshall, in a Twitter thread, wrote that the “lion has been cruelly defanged and had its claws removed”.

“A lion being kept as a pet in a house in Phnom Penh by wealthy Chinese businessman Qi Xiao has been wandering in the street outside, apparently unsupervised. How long will this madness and cruelty be allowed to continue?” read one of Marshall’s tweets as he shared pictures of the animal on the streets.

Another user Mike Gebremedhin posted a video, where the lion is seen running around the area, along with a caption that read, “Friend shot this video this morning. Is the lion loose in BKK1?”

According to Khmer Times, a Phnom Penh-based newspaper, the lion was earlier captured from the house of a Chinese national by the Cambodian authorities after a TikTok video featuring the animal at a villa had gone viral on social media.

The NGO, which had assisted in rehousing the animal at the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Centre, had highlighted the animal’s poor condition. “The male lion is a young adult raised from a cub. He is now 1.5 years old and weighs 70+ kg. The conditions at a residential home are inappropriate for a wild animal. In addition, the lion’s canine teeth had been removed, drastically reducing the lion’s quality of life,” the NGO told the news website.

However, the animal, named ‘Dark Mind’ or ‘Hei Man’, was returned to its owner after the intervention of Cambodia Prime Minister Hun Sen, the report added. The animal was returned following reported assurances from the owner that a proper enclosure would be built for it.

“This evening I discussed it with the Minister of Agriculture and agreed to allow the owner to take back the animal on the condition that he builds a proper enclosure to ensure the safety of people inside the home and the neighbours,” Sen was quoted as saying by Khmer Times.

The lion has reportedly been recaptured by the owner and taken home. But the incident has triggered an online discussion on animal cruelty, with many calling out the owner for confining the wild animal.

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