Escaped Changi lions were on ‘legal, commercial shipment:’ SIA

A sedated black-maned lion is confined by cargo netting in Singapore.
A sedated black-maned lion is confined by cargo netting in Singapore.

After alarming photos of a lion lashed to cargo by netting raised more questions about what two big cats were doing transiting through Changi Airport, the airline responsible said today there was nothing unseemly about it.

Singapore Airlines told Coconuts today that the two lions which broke free at Changi Airport were part of a “legal, commercial shipment,” without elaborating further. 

“[T]he lions were part of a legal shipment that was on transit to an overseas facility. For avoidance of any doubt, they were not being trafficked or shipped illegally – and any suggestion or insinuation to that effect is false,” its statement read, swatting down questions about where the African lions came from and their destination by repeating that it was a matter of “confidentiality.”

The airline said it was focused on the animals’ well-being.  

UPDATE: Trafficked lions? Focus on illicit trade ignores what’s happening legally: SWAG

The two lions, which were shot with tranquilizer guns shortly after escaping a container Sunday, today remained in isolation at a Mandai facility and under veterinarian supervision, according to zoo operator Mandai Wildlife Group, which has denied any involvement beyond stepping into help once the big cats got loose.

The airline today declined to answer questions about their origins and destination, as well as if they were drugged and bound as suggested by the photos. The latter became an issue yesterday after photos emerged purporting to show one of the lions immobilized and pinned to a crate by cargo netting. It was unclear whether the images, if authentic, were taken before or after their escape.

SIA again cited “commercial sensitivity and confidentiality reasons” for not providing any additional information.

Concerns have been raised about the animals’ welfare and whether they were part of the systemic wildlife trafficking which plagues the region.

While the airline and authorities remain tightlipped about the animals’ ultimate fate, no one has stepped forward to publicly claim ownership. 

According to the airline, it offers transport services for live animals such as racehorses, livestock, household pets, and tropical fish, but does not carry birds, pigs, primates, or racing greyhounds. It also promises “experienced staff” who will “ensure the welfare and safety of the animals are well taken care of.”

It’s beholden to Singaporean law, which allows regulated movement of wildlife and prohibits the trade of lions from India. Those from elsewhere require permits unless they are transported on behalf of licensed zoos, animal parks, or museums.

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