Teenager jailed for trying to smuggle 'pet' tiger across US-Mexico border

Court hears 18-year-old boasted about getting thousands of dollars for monkeys, jaguars and lions

The tiger cub was named Moka and now lives at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park
The tiger cub was named Moka and now lives at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

A teenager from California has been sentenced to six months in prison trying to smuggle a Bengal tiger cub across the US-Mexico border.

The six-week-old cub was found in a box on the floor of 18-year-old Luis Valencia's car in August 2017 as he was crossing from Mexico into the US near the city of San Diego.

His lawyer argued that his client had “a lapse of judgement” and he simply wanted to keep the tiger as a pet.

Prosecutors argued the teenager’s mobile phone data showed he was running an animal smuggling business

But prosecutors said the teenager’s mobile phone data showed he was running an animal smuggling business.

He had boasted about getting thousands of dollars for monkeys, jaguars and lions, the court heard.

Tigers are endangered and it is illegal to import them without a permit.

But the trade of exotic animals has become more popular in Mexico in recent years and large, dangerous animals have become a feature of drug cartels in the country.

The teenager's trial comes after Mexican authorities found another tiger cub in a plastic container, due to be posted to another address.

The Office for Environmental Protection found the sedated Bengal cub when a sniffer dog looking for contraband detected it in the plastic container.

The tiger cub discovered near San Diego was named Moka and now lives at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, where it is reportedly in good health.

Associated Press contributed to this report

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