US & Canada

US teenager jailed for smuggling tiger across Mexico border

The tiger cup pictured in the arms of a border official Image copyright US Customs and Border Protection
Image caption The tiger cub was seized by US Customs and Border Protection in August 2017

A US teenager has been sentenced to six months in prison after he was found guilty of trying to smuggle a Bengal tiger cub across the US-Mexico border.

The six-week-old cub was found in a box on the floor of the teenager's car as he was crossing from Mexico into the US near the city of San Diego.

His lawyer argued that his client had had "a lapse of judgement" and that he wanted to keep the tiger as a pet.

But prosecutors said he was running an animal smuggling business.

They said mobile phone messages sent by the teenager, named as 18-year-old Luis Valencia, showed he was boasting about getting large sums of money for exotic animals such as jaguars and lions.

The tiger cub, named Moka, was placed in San Diego Zoo's Safari Park.

Image copyright San Diego zoo
Image caption The cub was handed to San Diego Zoo, where he has been coming on fine

The smuggling of exotic animals has become a lucrative business in Mexico, where drug traffickers often keep entire menageries on their extensive ranches.

Earlier this month, another tiger cub was intercepted by Mexican police after someone tried to mail him in a plastic crate from the state of Jalisco to Querétaro.

The two-month-old cub, which had been sedated, was found by a sniffer dog looking for contraband.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The tiger cub had been sedated and placed in a plastic crate

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