A male tiger cub found by federal agents near Brownsville, Texas. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Federal agents peered into a duffel bag on the Mexico border. They found a tiger cub

The three men crossed the U.S. southern border into Texas with a black duffel bag, on an apparent mission to deliver their lucrative product to the United States.

But they caught wind of border agents nearby, readying to intercept them near Brownsville, officials said.

It led to a calculation: Now what? And what to do with the unconscious tiger cub weighing down the duffel bag?

The men retreated back into Mexico, and the three- or four-month-old male cub became an unexpected ward of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“NOT an average day in the field,” Irma Chapa, a spokeswoman for the Rio Grande Valley sector of CBP, said in a tweet Monday.

Chapa said the tiger cub is “expected to make a full recovery,” and CBS affiliate KHOU reported that the cub was taken to Brownsville’s Gladys Porter Zoo. Luckily for the tiger, the zoo specializes in handling endangered species.

The cub was an apparent node in the billion-dollar trade of animal smuggling, and it is in unfortunate recent company: A tiger cub bought by an American teenager was intercepted at a checkpoint in California last summer.

In 2010, border agents recovered a caged and abandoned tiger in Laredo, another Texas border town.

About 350 million plants and animals are sold around the world annually, generating between $7 billion and $23 billion, Washington-based conservation group Defenders of Wildlife said in a 2015 report.

Latin America, one of the most biodiverse regions in the world, has emerged as a fulcrum in the endangered and exotic species trade feeding the booming U.S. market.

A quarter of the 50,000 animals and wildlife products seized at American ports of entry from 2005 to 2014 originated in Latin America, the group said. Smugglers move freely through corruption-rotted nations and exploit the sometimes porous border with Mexico to send endangered animals and illegal animal products into the United States.

Queen conch shells housing snails, prized by seafood chefs but subject to fishing bans in Florida, are the most commonly smuggled species from Latin America, the group found.

Sea turtles and iguanas are also trafficked in large numbers, with caiman and crocodiles smuggled and skinned for boot and belt leather.

“There’s a demand for exotic skin boots, and the more exotic, the more people want them,” Nicholas Chavez, the southwest region special agent for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, told National Geographic last year.

And Mexican parrots are endangered by the demand for protected and rare birds, like the vividly coloured orange-fronted and yellow-headed species.

Many smugglers rely on methods less conspicuous than black duffel bags carried by hand.

Last March, federal agents intercepted a shipment of Cobras hidden in potato chip cans.

Alex Horton/The Washington Post

Just Posted

WATCH: Red Deer shows respect at annual celebration

Central Alberta Sexual Assault Suport Centre holds Respect Day at city hall park

Red Deer man sentenced to 4 1/2 years for fatal shooting

Mother-of-two was killed when a rifle in a sports bag accidentally went off in February 2017

Kitten found in engine is “so far, so good”

It’s kitten season at Central Alberta Humane Society in Red Deer

Fathers’ rights group to rally in front of Red Deer Courthouse

For a few months now, Mattias Battauz has been in front of… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer’s Food Truck Friday opens in a larger new venue

Carnival Cinemas space praised by customers and vendors

NDP nominates candidate for pending Innisfail-Sylvan Lake byelection

Seat vacant after previous MLA charged with sexual assault

Hunt underway for two suspects connected to Mississauga, Ont., blast

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — Police are actively hunting for two suspects believed to… Continue reading

Handcuffed Weinstein faces rape charge in #MeToo reckoning

NEW YORK — It was the moment the #MeToo movement had been… Continue reading

Waterline work closes 48th Avenue in Red Deer this weekend

Drivers can expect a major closure in downtown Red Deer this weekend.… Continue reading

Stettler police looking for alleged shoplifter who stole shoes

Stettler Mounties are looking for a woman they say stole a pair… Continue reading

Teamsters union members vote 98.1 per cent to reject CP Rail final offer

The Teamsters Canada Rail Conference says its members at Canadian Pacific Railway… Continue reading

Wildfire northwest of Kamloops jumps to 1,600 hectares overnight

Ground crews and aircraft are responding to an estimated 1,600 hectare wildfire approximately 55 kilometers northwest of Kamloops, near the Deadman Vidette Road.

Referendum in Ireland would repeal strict ban on abortion

DUBLIN — Ireland’s referendum Friday represented more than a vote on whether… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month