A terrifying story with a happy ending. Three years ago, a six week old Bengal tiger cub was rescued from a wildlife trafficking attempt at a San Diego area border crossing. Today, the fully grown tiger, Moka, is living happily with another rescued tiger named Nola.
Moka was discovered in the floorboard of a sports car driven by an 18-year-old man who was attempting to smuggle the tiger from Tijuana through the U.S.-Mexico border. As reported by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and Border Report, the passenger under whose legs the cub was hidden had at first said that it was "just a cat." The driver, Luis Valencia, when questioned, claimed that he had bought the tiger in Tijuana after seeing someone walking it on a leash and wanted to keep it as a pet. Later, of course, it was discovered that both statements were false, and Luis was sentenced to six months in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy charges.
The cub was taken to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and had a surgery that saved his life. At the time, his weight was less than that of the average house cat - just 6 pounds. His name, Moka, means "chance" in Bengali and was given to him as a way of commemorating the story of his discovery. There, he got to meet Rakan, "a Sumartan tiger cub whose mother was unable to care for him," and together they grew up, played, wrestled, and pounced, becoming stronger and happier.
After a few months of care, still only a few months old, Moka was moved into an animal sanctuary called Lions, Tigers & Bears east of San Diego where he met Nola from Louisiana - another now fully grown tiger who was rescued as a cub.
The founder and director of Lions, Tigers & bears, Bobbi Brink, told Border Report that "[Moka and Nola] were both the same age, so they made great roommates, now they're best of friends," as well as that "[h]e's kind of shy but Nola is his strength. She'll be the first one to go out and check out something then slowly but surely he'll be right behind her," and no ending could make us happier.
Take a look at pictures of Moka from three years ago, over the first three months at the safari (with Rakan!) and today below.