4 min read

Officers Find Saddest Thing Stashed In Wooden Box At Airport

They were SO tiny and scared 💔

Patrolling Tijuana International Airport late last week, canine officers with the Mexican Federal Police sniffed out a box that turned out to be smuggling some extra-precious cargo.

Stuffed inside an unmarked wooden box filled with paper shavings, a jaguar cub and a tiger cub peered up at police after the box was pried open.

smuggled tiger jaguar cubs mexico
An officer holding the cubs | Facebook/Policía Federal de México

Only a few weeks old, the cubs were clearly exhausted and scared from the stressful trip. While it’s unclear where the cubs came from or where they were headed, officers were elated to save two little lives.

“Both are endangered species due to illegal hunting for the acquisition of their skin,” police said on Facebook. “We protect life in all its manifestations.”

jaguar cub smuggled mexico
The jaguar cub being taken out of the box | Facebook/Policía Federal de México

Unfortunately, these cubs are only the most recent big cat cubs found being illegally shipped in Mexico. Last month, federal authorities searching through mail found a 2-month-old Bengal tiger cub that someone had been trying to ship inside a duct-taped plastic storage bin.

It’s likely that the tiger and jaguar cubs who were just found were being smuggled so they could be sold as pets or as an attraction for a roadside zoo.

According to Prashant Khetan, chief executive officer for Born Free USA, cubs smuggled through Mexico are likely to have been bred within North or Central America, and are often sold as pets. Once they grow too large to be handled by people, they are also typically sold to a zoo or another animal attraction.

tiger cub jaguar smuggled mexico
The Bengal tiger cub who was found in a duct-taped plastic bin last month | Facebook/Policía Federal de México

“It’s very common for people to get cubs as household pets,” Khetan told The Dodo last month. “As they get older, though, they need space and need to eat at a pace most humans aren’t able to provide. They are not intended for crates, but that is where many end up before being sold elsewhere.”

In Mexico in particular, Khetan added, some resorts also have employees walk sedated animals around for guests to pet and photograph.

tiger jaguar cubs smuggled mexico
The jaguar and tiger cubs after being taken out of the box | Facebook/Policía Federal de México

While it’s unclear what will happen to these particular cubs, the best hope is to have them transferred to a sanctuary.

“In the U.S., we don’t prohibit big cat transportation overall,” Khetan added, noting that it’s legal to keep big cats as pets in states like Nevada and Wisconsin. “It’s hard for me to judge that this market exists when the government enables people to do it as a business.”

To help animals within the illegal wildlife trade, you can make a donation to Born Free USA.