Are There Lions In Thailand?

credit: Yay

Thailand has millions of travelers passing through their country every year, and it is loved for its beautiful temples, friendly culture, and tropical nature. Tourists love to see Thailand’s national animal, the Thai Elephant, and they’re famous for their tigers too, but many wonder if there are lions in Thailand.

Yes, there are lions in Thailand, but they are only found in captivity. You’ll find both Asiatic and African lions at zoos or animal parks. Although lions aren’t native to their country, they are still a symbol in Thailand’s Buddhist culture and are often seen in temples and sculptures.

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Where Can Tourists See Lions In Thailand?

Lions are mighty animals, so it’s no wonder that tourists would love to see them, especially when touring Thailand, as nature is one of the country’s appealing aspects. They are not found in the wild, but tourists can still visit them in captivity in Thailand to see them.

How Common Are Lions In Thailand?

Sadly, lions are not found in the wild or nature reserves of Thailand’s wildlife. Still, it is common to see one in their zoos or animal parks, especially if the establishment is primarily for tiger and wildcat conservation. Mountain lions can also be found in these places sometimes.

It is common to find lion sculptures decorating temples and incorporated into decorations, which may be surprising because they are not indigenous to Thailand. However, lions are still culturally significant, thanks to Buddhism in Thailand.

What Is The Cultural Significance Of Lions In Thailand?

Buddhism is practiced by 93% of Thailand’s population, and lions have essential symbolism in this practice. Buddha is often referred to as the ‘Lion of Shakyas’, and his voice and teachings get called ‘The Lion’s Roar’ to acknowledge the power of his teachings.

Wooden lion statue at the floating market
Yay Wooden lion statue at the floating market

Lions are seen as guardians, representing strength, bravery, and royalty relating to Buddha’s courage and royal origins, and get often referred to as ‘Buddha’s Lions.’ Lion motifs are placed in front of temples and monasteries as protection to ward off evil like a lion would protect their clan.

Thai Lion Marble at Wat Benchamabopit Dusitvanaram in Bangkok Thailand
Yay Thai Lion Marble at Wat Benchamabopit Dusitvanaram in Bangkok, Thailand

Were There Lions In Thailand In The Past?

Up until the 20th century, The Asiatic lion could be seen across Asia, but they only populated the southwest parts and reached as far as central India – a bit of a far stretch from Thailand. Today a small population of wild Asiatic lions is confined to a reserve in India.

Captive lions can be seen in Thailand, as previously mentioned, but they were never native to its wildlife in the past. Instead, tigers are the king of Thailand’s jungle! Sadly, there aren’t many wild tigers due to human poaching, and only around 149 of them are roaming freely.

Antique Stupa surrounded by Lion statue cambodia style in Thammikarat Temple in Ayutthaya Thailand
Yay Antique Stupa surrounded by Lion statue cambodia style in Thammikarat Temple in Ayutthaya, Thailand

Can Tourists See Lions In Thailand?

Thailand has many zoos and animal parks for tourists to visit, especially parks dedicated to wildcats. They commonly have Asiatic lions kept captive for care and protection since India is nearby, but there are also African lions sometimes.

Many parks and zoos obtain their lions through rescue missions, but some establishments illegally get wild animals for tourism. Reading the establishments’ reviews should indicate whether animals are treated well.

These illegal zoos are known as Tiger Temples which allow tourists to interact with the wildlife by letting them pet the animals or take them for walks on a leash. Not all establishments that enable wildcat interactions are harmful, but tourists must be wary if they support establishments that exploit wildlife.

These temples are more commonly known for tigers than lions, such as the infamous Wat Pha Luang Ta Bua Yanasampanno ordeal, where they illegally traded tiger parts behind the scenes and allegedly even drugged animals for tourism purposes. It is vital to do your research before visiting lions and wildcats.

Are Lions In Thailand Legal?

Lions are legal to own and keep captive if the establishment or person has proper permits under the Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act, ensuring that the lions are well looked after as outlined by the legislation.

Are Lions In Thailand Protected?

It is legal for zoos and parks to keep lions if they abide by the legislation of the Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act, B.E. 2562, which was implemented in 2019. The act prevents lions from getting exploited, or their parts traded – a common issue for wildcats in Thailand.

The reason lions have such strict protection is that there is a significant illegal trade in Thailand and throughout Asia, where animal parts are sold for consumption. The people who buy them believe the parts will cure illnesses or bring them good luck.

Thailand’s law protects wildlife from getting exploited or traded and has some of the harshest penalties in the world if the law is broken. Tigers are more commonly the victims of this crime, but luckily the act extends to protect lions too.

What Kind Of Lions Are There In Thailand?

The zoos and parks obtain their lions by different means, like rescues from people who have owned them illegally or from other zoos that needed a place for them. The different ways of getting the lions mean that different lion breeds can be seen.

The Asiatic Lion is endangered and gets protected in its habitat in Gir Forest. They can live up to 20 years old and weigh up to 418 pounds! It is more common to see the Asiatic Lion in Thailand, as they come from India and Asia.

African white lioness in Chiang Mai zoo Thailand
Yay African white lioness in Chiang Mai zoo, Thailand

The African Lion is larger than the Asiatic Lion and less likely to see because they come from Africa, but in the past, they came from parts of Asia and Europe. African Lion males have fluffier manes, and males and females are more robust than Asiatic Lions.

Lions are the Panthera Leo species closely related to Thailand’s more famous big cat, the tiger, Panthera Tigris, which means they can even interbreed into a Liger, which has become more common in Thailand’s zoos and animal parks. Ligers are only found in captivity but breeding them raises ethical concerns.