U.S. border officials confiscated a Bengal tiger cub after inspecting a car heading from Mexico to California, federal authorities said Friday.
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Luis Eudoro Valencia, a U.S. citizen from Perris, California, was charged Thursday with smuggling a Bengal tiger cub into the United States from Mexico. Agents found the cub lying on the floor of the car on the passenger side while doing a routine inspection at about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Otay Mesa border crossing, southeast of downtown San Diego, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Valencia, 18, told the court that he had purchased the tiger for $300 from someone he met in the Mexican border city of Tijuana who was walking a full-sized tiger on a leash.
All species of tigers are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, and are protected. To legally import an endangered species into the United States requires a permit from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and a declaration filed with the agency.
Prosecutors say Valencia lacked both. Valencia could not be immediately reached for comment nor could his court-appointed attorney.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service officials took custody of the cub and are working with the San Diego Zoo to care for it.
Valencia was released on a $10,000 bond and ordered to appear for a preliminary hearing on September 5 in federal court in San Diego.