Last week at Tijuana International Airport, officers with the Mexican federal Police discovered precious cargo in an unmarked wooden box filled with paper shavings. When they opened the lid, peering up at them were a tiger and jaguar cub.
The dear cubs were only weeks old. They were clearly scared and stressed by their ordeal. Nevertheless, they won’t end up as pets or as part of an illegal circus or roadside zoo. Their futures are secured; they will live out their lives in safety.
“Both are endangered species due to illegal hunting for the acquisition of their skin,” police said on Facebook. “We protect life in all its manifestations.”
Unfortunately, these two cubs are just the latest in a never-ending string of big cat cubs being illegally shipped in Mexico. Just last month, authorities discovered a 2-month-old Bengal tiger someone attempted to ship by mail in a duct-taped storage bin.
Prashant Khetan is the chief executive officer of Born Free USA. Smuggled cubs like these are likely bred in North or Central America. They are usually sold as pets. Once they become too large to be handled, they’re sold to a zoo or another animal attraction.
“It’s very common for people to get cubs as household pets,” Khetan told The Dodo last month. “As they get older, though, they need space and need to eat at a pace most humans aren’t able to provide. They are not intended for crates, but that is where many end up before being sold elsewhere.”
Khetan added in Mexico, in particular, resort employees will walk sedated animals around the grounds for guests to pet and photograph. It’s hoped these two cubs will be transferred to a sanctuary.
“In the U.S., we don’t prohibit big cat transportation overall,” Khetan added, noting that it’s legal to keep big cats as pets in states like Nevada and Wisconsin. “It’s hard for me to judge that this market exists when the government enables people to do it as a business.”