Last week, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents caught an 18-year-old man trying to smuggle a baby Bengal tiger into San Diego from Mexico when they spotted the cub on the floor of his car during a stop at a border checkpoint.
The man, who lives in California, planned to keep the tiger cub as a “pet.” He told reporters that he’d bought the cub from someone in Tijuana for $300 after he’d seen the person walking an adult tiger on a leash.
According to reports, the tiger smuggler was arrested, was released on bond, and is awaiting his trial date. All species of tiger are considered endangered, and the smuggler didn’t have a permit to transport the cub.
This situation is wrong on so many levels. The cub was taken away from his mother and sold like an object for human amusement rather than respected as a living animal with complex emotions and needs. A house or apartment is no place for a wild animal, and keeping the cub captive would’ve posed a risk to humans and denied the cub everything that he needed to be happy and healthy.
What You Can Do
We all have the power to help cubs like the one in this story. Much like this cub’s captor, many humans are drawn to baby wild animals because they’re “cute.” Roadside zoos or other tourist attractions in the U.S. and internationally sometimes offer “encounters” or photo opportunities with wild animals.
On the surface, these places might look harmless, but the truth is that they mean a lifetime of misery for baby tigers or any other animals forced to pose for pictures.
Baby tigers used at photo attractions are frequently abducted from their distraught mothers when they’re just days old. They’re subjected to extreme stress and often to physical abuse in order to get them to “cooperate.”
Once the tigers are no longer babies and become too large and dangerous to use for pictures, they’re typically shipped off to other roadside zoos or warehoused for the rest of their lives.
Wild-animal photo ops have nothing to do with conservation, despite the claims that tourist traps make to get you to visit them. Avoid any place that allows humans to interact with tigers or any other wild animals and that charges for photos ops with these animals.
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