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Federal Agents Find Tiger, Other Exotic Animals in a ‘Pseudo-Narco Zoo’

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A menagerie of exotic animals was discovered in Mercedes, Texas, during a raid for narcotics on March 25, 2020. Dubbed a ‘pseudo-narco zoo,’ the list of captives included a juvenile Bengal tiger and a kinkajou (a tropical rainforest mammal), as well as more common critters like llamas, porcupines, emus, and a bobcat. The DEA Federal agents who made the discovery were onsite at the five-acre property searching for narcotics. Mercedes is located in the Rio Grande Valley.

Federal Agents Find Tiger, Other Exotic Animals in a 'Pseudo-Narco Zoo'

Photo: envato elements

While no arrests were made for narcotics, the animals were handled by officials from the Austin Zoo, as well as members of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, including Zulema, the Bengal tiger. Zulema will be quarantined for 30 days, then integrated into the zoo located at 10808 Rawhide Trail. The Austin Zoo is a non-profit rescue organization which does not receive any funding from the city of Austin or the state of Texas. Rescue and care operations are run on private donations, gate admissions, grants, and sponsorships.

Unfortunately, “the Texas Game Wardens, in coordination with a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department wildlife biologist, had to euthanize some of the native wildlife (a bobcat and whitetail deer) because they were unpermitted, being held illegally and the origin of the animals was unknown. It was determined that it wasn’t safe to reintroduce them into the native population,” per a department-released statement.

Federal Agents Find Tiger, Other Exotic Animals in a 'Pseudo-Narco Zoo'

Photo: envato elements

The animals were removed as proper permits were not held by the property owners. Conditions of the animal habitats were not in ideal form. In Texas, it’s legal to own exotic wildlife with appropriate permits and licenses but it’s illegal to smuggle them into the United States. While numbers are unreliable, it’s believed that nearly 5,000 tigers are in captivity in the United States; Texas numbers are considered to be 8.5% of the total.