Authorities found a small zoo this morning at a home in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, after more evidence turned up Wednesday at a border crossing that raising exotic animals may not be uncommon in northern Mexico.
Federal and state security forces and environmental agents searched a home in the Campestre Arboleda area of Ciudad Juárez, where they seized a lion, three tigers and a crocodile. The lion and one of the tigers were cubs.
No arrests were made but the animals were taken into custody by the environmental agency Profepa.
Early Wednesday, a California teenager was arrested at the Otay Mesa border crossing in San Diego while attempting to cross from Mexico with a tiger cub in his car.
A passenger told border patrol agents that it was just a cat, but documents found in the vehicle revealed it was a Bengal tiger.
Luis Eudoro Valencia, 18, told agents he had purchased the animal for US $300 from an individual he had encountered in Tijuana who had been walking a full-grown tiger on a leash.
He faces charges of smuggling and unlawful importation of wildlife, said the U.S. Attorney’s Office, for which the maximum penalty is 20 years in prison and a large fine.
Several Bengal tigers have been seized in Tijuana this year by Mexican authorities. In January, a citizen called police to report a man walking a tiger on a leash. They learned the four-month-old animal was living with a family in their home.
In April, another Tijuana citizen was surprised when a nine-month-old tiger landed on his patio after falling from the third floor of a neighbor’s home. The animal appeared unhurt by the fall.
Exotic animals were more commonly found in circuses until legislation in 2015 made it illegal to use them for performances, and in the homes of drug traffickers, who have been known to make them pets.
Exotic animals found in Juárez.