Officers with the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at the Otay Mesa port of entry into the U.S. discovered a Tiger Cub on the floor of a Chevy Camaro on Wednesday. 18-year-old Luis Eudoro Valencia, who hails from Perris in California, was arrested and faced charges on Thursday of attempting to smuggle a Bengal tiger across the border into the U.S.

Tiger cub seized at Otay Mesa port of entry

When CBP officers examined a 2017 Chevy Camaro at the Otay Mesa port of entry on Wednesday at around 1:30 AM over an issue with the vehicle's identification number. However, on closer inspection, they discovered the tiger cub lying on the floor on the passenger side of the vehicle.

According to the teenager, he had purchased the tiger cub for $300 from a man he met, walking the streets of Tijuana with a fully grown tiger on a leash. He wanted to bring the animal home as a pet.

Tijuana has a tiger problem

Police say several tigers have been seized in Tijuana this year and it appears to be a growing problem. According to officials, a four-month-old tiger cub was seized in January after residents reported a man with a tiger on a leash, walking around the area. The cub had reportedly been living in a private Tijuana home with young children.

The International Business Times reports that in another case, a nine-month-old tiger cub was seized in Tijuana after it fell from a third-floor balcony onto a neighbor’s patio.

Despite the fall, the cub was reportedly in good health.

The director of CBP field operations in San Diego, Pete Flores, said their officers often experience unusual situations. In the case of the tiger cub, he said officers faced the challenge “head on” and helped to preserve the life of the endangered animal. Officials seized the male tiger cub, placing it in a crate ready to hand over to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The cub is now in the care of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

As reported by the Albuquerque Journal, since a law went into effect prohibiting exotic animals in Mexican circuses, they have been trying to offload a lot of tigers. The big cats tend to be popular with drug lords in the country, who delight in keeping them as pets.

However, all tigers fall under the Endangered Species Act and importation of such animals into the U.S. requires a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service special permit, along with a declaration filed with that agency. Valencia was found to have not complied with those rulings but was released on a bond of $10,000. The teenager will be heading to a preliminary hearing on September 5 in the San Diego Federal Court and could face up to 20 years behind bars if convicted.