United States Border Patrol agents are used to finding all sorts of contraband entering the country illegally. Sometimes, though, they come across something they’ve never encountered. Border Patrol agents working at the Texas-Mexico border found an abandoned duffel bag while conducting an investigation.
Inside the bag? A male tiger cub.
The cub was only a few months old, and it was unconscious when the agents found him. The animal was taken to the nearby Gladys Porter Zoo to receive treatment. The zoo specializes in treating endangered animals. Shortly after treatments began, the zoo reported that the cub was recovering well.
According to Defenders of Wildlife, a conservation organization, Latin America accounted for about 25% of all the illegal shipments of wildlife that were seized at ports and borders from 2005 to 2014. The U.S.-Mexico border is big, and there just aren’t enough agents to cover the entire border.
Border Patrol agents regularly seize other types of animals, including turtles, monkeys, parrots and venomous snakes. If animals like these manage to make it into the country without being seized, they can bring thousands of dollars on the black market.
The unfortunate reality is that the issue of illegal animal smuggling isn’t likely to improve any time soon. Recent studies have shown that when it comes to catching illegal animals entering the U.S., only about 11 seizures per day occur, and that’s for the entire country. The rules for importing and exporting exotic live animals have a lot of grey areas, and there are plenty of legal loopholes that also contribute to the problem. By far, though, the biggest challenge is an understaffed federal team that is solely responsible for looking for illegal entries. In the end, it just doesn’t do much to counter the illegal wildlife black market, which generates an estimated $2 billion every year.
The Border Patrol and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service really can’t be blamed, as they’re doing the best they can with their limited resources. In the end, it’s much like many other issues in our country right now. If we want the problem of illegal wildlife trading to improve, the public is going to have to step up and take certain measures to fix it.