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Cambodia: TikTok pet lion confiscated by authorities returned after intervention by prime minister

The pet lion that was confiscated by officials in Cambodia last month was returned to its owner after the intervention by its prime minister.

The 18-month-old male lion was illegally smuggled into the country by a Chinese national, officials said.

They launched an inquiry in April after seeing TikTok videos of the lion at a villa in the capital, Phnom Penh.




The 70kg was seized on 27 June and moved to a rescue centre.

Since then the owner, a Chinese man named as Zhai Xinjiang in local media, has made appeals for the return of the lion on social media and in interviews.

On Sunday evening, long-time Prime Minister Hun Sen responded to the owner’s pleas in a Facebook post.



He said he had raised the issue with Agriculture Minister Veng Sakhon and agreed to have the lion returned to his owner if the animal was kept in a “proper cage”.

He also ordered authorities to reimburse any penalty paid by the owner, who was reportedly fined $30,000.

The agriculture minister told news outlet VOA Khmer that the decision was “a sympathetic” one from the prime minister. He said authorities would ensure the lion was kept safely.

Cambodia’s environment ministry had said it was illegal to keep lions as pets in the country. The ministry cited Article 49 of a forestry law, which prohibits any activities involving endangered wildlife species.

Wildlife Alliance, an animal rescue group that helped confiscate the lion, had said the conditions at the owner’s home were “inappropriate for a wild animal”.

“In addition, the lion’s canine teeth had been removed, along with its claws, which drastically reduces a lion’s quality of life,” the organisation said in a statement last month.