SAN DIEGO (CBSLA.com) — Doctors say a Bengal tiger cub confiscated by U.S. border officials after inspecting a car heading from Mexico to California is in good health.
Agents found the cub lying on the floor of the vehicle on the passenger side while doing a routine inspection at about 1:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Otay Mesa border crossing, southeast of downtown San Diego, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Veterinary staff at the Paul Harter Veterinary Hospital at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park gave the cub a clean bill of health after conducting a thorough exam.
“His heart and lungs sound good, his blood work looked great and, since he took a bottle from us, it’s a good sign he’ll continue to thrive,” said principal veterinarian Dr. Jim Oosterhuis.
The cub – estimated to be between five to six weeks old – weighed in at just over six pounds and is expected to be teething within the next few weeks, according to animal care staff.
After spending a couple of hours at the hospital, the cub was transferred to an isolated area at the Safaria Park away from other animals, in accordance with San Diego Zoo Global’s protocols for new arrivals, officials said.
Luis Eudoro Valencia, a U.S. citizen from Perris, was charged Thursday with smuggling a Bengal tiger cub into the United States from Mexico.
Valencia, 18, told the court that he had purchased the tiger for $300 from someone he met in the Mexican border city of Tijuana who was walking a full-sized tiger on a leash.
All species of tigers are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act, and are protected. To legally import an endangered species into the United States requires a permit from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and a declaration filed with the agency.
Prosecutors say Valencia lacked both. Valencia could not be immediately reached for comment nor could his court-appointed attorney.
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service officials took custody of the cub and are working with the San Diego Zoo to care for it.
Valencia was released on a $10,000 bond and ordered to appear for a preliminary hearing on September 5 in federal court in San Diego.
(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)