Officials Find Shocking Surprise Inside Shipping Crate
Officials in Russia found a very surprising piece of contraband this week: an endangered tiger cub.
The young Amur tiger, whose mother had likely been killed before he was captured from the wild, was being trafficked through a "black market supply route" to China, according to the Siberian Times. Tiger parts are in high demand in China, where their bones and other body parts are used in traditional Chinese medicine.
Fortunately, officials were tipped off, and a video posted by the Siberian Times shows the moment the little cub was rescued - and how rough the journey likely was for him.
The video opens with him nailed into a tiny slatted crate, just a few square feet in size. It's unclear whether he was found in this crate, or whether officials placed him in it for his journey to Moscow, where he is currently receiving a medical evaluation.
When a journalist approaches him, his dark eyes can be seen glaring through the space between the slats.
Officials open up the crate to reveal the tiny cub, collapsed in the corner on what appears to be a sheepskin, his food dish overturned. An official reaches out to stroke him, and the little cub lies there, breathing heavily and snarling, likely terrified by his ordeal.
His movement seems impaired - it's possible he was drugged so he would be calmer on the journey. However, he manages to drag himself to the other side of the cage, showing his wild side as he cautiously snarls at the man.
The officials then close up the crate and transport it to an enclosure. When they open it up again, the scene inside is heartbreaking. The cub crouches in the corner, a picture of defeat, as he tries to make himself as small as possible. He bends down to nudge at his overturned food bowl, a thick collar around his neck.
However, his temperament picks up when he's offered a piece of meat in an attempt to lure him out. He grabs onto it with his teeth, but when the official tries to distract him and scoot him out of the cage, the cub rapidly releases the meat and swipes at the man.
Perhaps realizing that aggravating the frightened cub isn't the best method, the official leaves the meat in front of the crate and steps back. Cautiously, the little tiger walks out into his strange new home, motherless and confused, and stops to investigate what appears to be an older lion cub through the wire walls in front of him.
This little cub should be miles away, living in the wild with his mother. Unfortunately, he will be living in Moscow for the time being, thanks to demand for tiger parts and the illegal wildlife trade. The cub will not be returned to the wild, according to the Siberian Times, as officials were concerned he could not survive on his own after being taken away from his mother. It's unclear whether they will try to reintroduce him to the wild when he is older.
His rescue is a significant one considering how few Amur tigers are left in the wild. Also known as Siberian tigers, their population dropped to just 20-30 animals in the 1930s. Thanks to aggressive protection measures they've since made a comeback, though they're still endangered: There are only around 450 individuals in the wild.
The loss of this tiger as a potential wild parent would be a hard hit to conservation, as every individual is crucially important to repopulation. However, even life in captivity is a better alternative than what would have happened if he hadn't been rescued.
You can watch the full video below.