On Wednesday, an 18-year-old driver was apprehended at the U.S – Mexico border, after trying to smuggle a Bengal tiger cub into the country.

At about 1:30 a.m Luis Eudoro Valencia, a U.S citizen from California, pulled up to Otay Mesa Port near San Diego in his 2017 Chevrolet Camaro, Azcentral and the Washington Post reported. There, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials asked that Valencia’s vehicle be inspected further at a secondary area of the crossing– that’s when they found the cub lying on the floor of the passenger’s side of the car.

“CBP officers are often faced with unusual situations,” Pete Flores, director of field operations for U.S Customs and Border Protection in San Diego said. “The CBP officers at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry met the challenge head on and assisted in preserving the life of this endangered species.”

The agents then removed the tiger from the vehicle and placed it in a crate until U.S Fish and Wildlife Service officials responded. The organization later handed the cub over to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park to care for it, according to the Washington Post.

The driver was taken to the Metropolitan Correctional Center where he faces charges of smuggling and unlawful importation of wildlife, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

For such charges, Valencia could face a maximum penalty 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss caused by the offense generated from the five years of supervised release, according to Azcentral. Importing an endangered species into the U.S requires a permit from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and a declaration filed with the agency– none of which Valencia possessed, the Washington Post reported.

Valencia said he purchased the tiger for $300 from a seller in Tijuana who was walking a full-sized tiger on a leash, according to court documents. In Mexico, circuses are apparently trying to get rid of such animals after a law enacted in 2015 prohibited such acts.

The teenager was released on bond and ordered to appear for a preliminary hearing on September 5 in federal court in San Diego.

Featured Image via Flickr/ Steph Lauren x

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