A Siberian tiger cub, who had spent most of her life chained up outside a restaurant, has finally been rescued by an animal protection agency.
The poor tiger would spend each day chained to her plastic kennel in a parking lot, where customers of the Mexico City restaurant would take photos before going in to eat, leaving her alone on the tarmac.
Earlier this month, however, officials from the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection (PROFEPA) found the cub and rescued her.
The cub was only four or five months old, and is believed to be the victim of the illegal wildlife trade, which sells rare, young animals to private owners, roadside zoos or tourist attractions, as was the case at the restaurant.
According to officials, the owner of the cub was keeping her illegally, and was unable to provide documentation to show where she came from, according to The Dodo.
In a similarly sad story, authorities at the US-Mexico border in Texas found another tiger cub sedated and put in a duffel bag earlier this year. Like the cub chained up outside the restaurant, it is thought the animal was on its way to becoming an illegal pet or an attraction in a roadside zoo.
Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible for authorities to know where the tigers have come from, due to lack of documentation in the illegal trades.
Susan Bass, PR manager for Florida’s Big Cat Rescue, said:
Sadly, it seems there is a never-ending stream of stories out of Mexico about sick or injured tiger cubs being smuggled, kept as pets, or used in cub-petting photo op schemes in Mexico’s tourist areas.
The cubs that are discovered by authorities and reported on in the media are most likely just a small percentage of the actual number of cubs being bred, exploited and suffering in Mexico.
The cub found outside the restaurant is now being monitored and cared for by the Mexican government’s Animal Management Unit. She is said to be suffering from an acute calcium deficiency due to poor diet, but will soon be transferred to another facility for long-term care.
The population of wild tigers has significantly reduced due to the demand for captive tigers. There are roughly only 3,800 tigers left in the wild across the whole world. While it is estimated that 5,000 tigers are kept captive.
Despite tiger smuggling occurring fairly frequently in Mexico, there is no sanctuary specially for them in the country. According to Susan Bass, this can sometimes mean it takes time for the tigers to receive the proper care they need, even after they’ve been rescued.
I am happy to see that PROFEPA stepped in and seized the tiger cub from the illegal owner, but the larger issue is that there are no sanctuaries for big cats in all of Mexico. The cub is likely destined for a lifetime in a zoo or other facility.
We are seeing increasing awareness by the public that owning captive tigers is cruel, not cool. But the demand to pet them hasn’t ended soon enough to save this little guy.
Thankfully, public opinion on keeping big cats as pets or in illegal zoos is shifting. And, thanks to organisations like PROFEPA, the number of illegally kept tigers is slowly being reduced.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.