Border patrol agents in Texas had a grim surprise on Monday when they came across a bag stuffed with an unconscious tiger cub.
The two-month-old tiger was in a bad way when agents first unzipped the abandoned duffle bag on April 30. According to the US Customs and Border Protection, the bag belonged to three men spotted earlier in the day attempting to cross the border from Mexico, one of whom was seen carrying a big black bag. After being confronted by US border agents, the trio retreated across the border into Mexico, seemingly leaving behind their smuggled goods.
"NOT an average day in the field, as Brownsville Border Patrol Agents rescue a tiger!" tweeted Irma Chapa, communications director for Rio Grande Valley border patrol.
Experts from the Gladys Porter Zoo in the nearby city of Brownsville were called and quickly came to the rescue of the little tiger. Following a solid day’s rest and some veterinary care, the tiger is now recovering fast.
“Our team acted quickly to stabilize him and he is now doing very well. The next step will be to find him a more permanent home,” the zoo tweeted on Tuesday.
His legions of new fans on social media have been proposing names for the young cub, including suggestion such as “Duffel,” “Duffy,” “Bandit,” and “Bilbo Baggins.”
This young cub was extremely lucky, but it is just one of the hundreds of tigers subjected to the illegal wildlife trade. Tigers are found only in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand, and Vietnam.
TRAFFIC estimates at least two tigers are smuggled out of their wild habitat every week. They are then exported to Southeast and East Asia, where they are killed, butchered, and used for traditional medicine. For example, parts of southeast Asia use the bones and penises of tigers as aphrodisiacs. In China, the tigers' bones are used to make “tiger bone wine,” a tonic believed to impart the tiger's great strength.
In Europe and the Americas, tigers are often smuggled in for the pet trade. Just a few months ago in February 2018, a Californian teen was sent to prison for attempting to smuggle a tiger cub into the US from Mexico, reportedly because he wanted to keep it as a pet. The tiger cub was later rehomed at San Diego Zoo's Safari Park.