6 min read

People Find Saddest Baby Animal Chained Up Outside Restaurant

She was so alone 💔

The only home she knew was a dirty plastic kennel at a parking lot.

Chained up outside a Mexico City restaurant, the Siberian tiger cub had no choice but to just lie there on the pavement alone, waiting for the days to pass. Diners would often stop to take pictures with her — but then they disappeared inside to eat, quickly forgetting about her.

tiger rescue mexico
PROFEPA

This was the cub’s heartbreaking life, day in and day out — until last week, when officials with the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection (PROFEPA) found her.

At only 4 or 5 months old, the cub was likely a victim of the illegal wildlife trade, which networks young animals for sale to often cruel private owners like roadside zoos or, in this case, odd tourist attractions.

tiger rescue mexico
PROFEPA

The cub’s owner was keeping her illegally, officials said, and he was unable to provide documentation about where she came from. Unfortunately, this little cub isn’t the first or last of her kind to have a similarly traumatic start to life.

Earlier this year, border patrol officials in Texas found a sedated tiger cub stuffed into a duffel bag at the U.S.-Mexico border. Like the female cub, he was likely on his way to become a pet or the star of a roadside zoo.

tiger cub rescue mexico
Kenobi, the tiger cub found in a duffel bag at the Mexican border in May | U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Given both cubs' situations, it's likely their mothers are languishing at backyard breeding facilities to keep up with the market’s high demand for babies. Because many of these transactions done illegally, it’s nearly impossible to know exactly where each cub comes from.

“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,” Susan Bass, PR manager for Florida’s Big Cat Rescue, told The Dodo. “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.”

tiger rescue mexico
PROFEPA

The demand for captive tigers has contributed to the destruction of wild populations. There are only about 3,800 tigers left in the wild across the world — compared to an estimated 5,000 tigers kept captive, some as pets in people's backyards, in the U.S. alone, and many more thousands around the world.

This cub, likely from being fed an improper diet, is suffering from acute calcium deficiency, officials said. She’s currently being monitored and cared for by the Mexican government’s Animal Management Unit, and will then be transferred to another facility for long-term care.

tiger rescue mexico
PROFEPA

Despite the frequency of big cat smuggling in Mexico, the country does not have a sanctuary designed for them, Bass said — which means that the cycle of improper care may not always end for these big cats when they’re 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,” Bass said. “The cub is likely destined for a lifetime in a zoo or other facility.”

tiger rescue mexico
PROFEPA

In the light of the recent cub smuggling and cub tourism epidemic in Mexico, Bass said, public opinion on keeping big cats as pets is slowly starting to shift — which can only mean good things for these endangered animals.

“We are seeing increasing awareness by the public that owning captive tigers is cruel, not cool,” Bass said. “But the demand to pet them hasn't ended soon enough to save this little guy.”

There are fewer than 4,000 tigers left in the wild, and many are being forced into cruel tourist traps like this one. Project C.A.T. is working to protect tigers for years to come by supporting nearly 2 million acres of protected habitat — part of a global effort to double the number of wild tigers by 2022. Find out how you can help here.