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Baby tiger smuggled into U.S. from Mexico is ‘doing well,’ zoo officials say

SAN DIEGO – A weeks-old baby tiger that was rescued after being illegally trafficked into California from Mexico this week was “doing well” Friday, according to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, which is caring for the animal.

After taking possession of the male cub Wednesday, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officers brought him to the Paul Harter Veterinary Hospital at the Safari Park.

A tiger cub that was rescued at the U.S.-Mexico border was doing well on Aug. 25, 2017, according to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, which released this photo of the weeks-old animal.

A tiger cub that was rescued at the U.S.-Mexico border was doing well on Aug. 25, 2017, according to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, which released this photo of the weeks-old animal.

He was examined by veterinary staff at the hospital, who determined the cub was overall in good health, according to a news release from the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

“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,” principal veterinarian Dr. Jim Oosterhuis said, according to the release.

The cub weighs about 6 pounds, and is estimated to be between 5 and 6 weeks old.

“He has teeth coming in, so he’ll be teething in the next week or two—so, animal care staff will have a little chore getting him through that,” Oosterhuis said.

The tiger cub was rescued at the Otay Mesa border crossing early Wednesday, after U.S. Customers and Border Protection officers found him during a secondary inspection on the floor of a vehicle being driven by 18-year-old Luis Valencia, of Perris, according to federal authorities.

Valencia is accused of bringing the tiger -- protected under the Endangered Species Act  -- into the United States from Mexico without the proper permits and paperwork. He has been charged with unlawful importation and smuggling, the U.S. Department of Justice said Thursday.

Meanwhile, the cub is receiving round-the-clock care at the Safari Park's Ione and Paul Harter Animal Care Center. As part of the zoo's protocol for new arrivals, he is being housed in an isolated area away from the other animals.

Safari Park guests can get a glimpse of the tiger cub through the Animal Care Center's nursery window at various times during the day.

The animal will continue to be in their care until a permanent home is determined by Fish and Wildlife Service officials.