By Joe Taksel
If you needed another reason not to do drugs, consider that it's causing misery for countless tigers, lions, monkeys, birds, and other exotic animals coveted by Mexican drug cartel kingpins as symbols of power. Mexican authorities have seized thousands of exotic "narco pets" from the estates of busted drug lords, and they're running out of room to place the animals. Many go to zoos, which are operating at capacity, so some animals are turned over to breeding operations.
When security forces arrested Sinaloa cartel leader Jesus "The King" Zambada, they confiscated more than 200 animals, including peacocks and ostriches. The animals are regarded primarily as status symbols, and many are denied proper nutrition and veterinary care. Some big cats are cruelly defanged and declawed. The cartels have also used exotic animals in the same manner as human "mules" by stuffing condoms filled with cocaine into their bodies before the animals are shipped to the U.S.
The ideal solution to this problem would be a universal ban on owning captive exotic animals. Until that happens, we can take an important step toward protecting captive tigers here in the U.S. by closing a loophole that limits protections under the Endangered Species Act for "generic" tigers—ones who are a mix of more than one sub-species of tiger or are of unknown heritage. Please take a moment to write to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and ask the agency to protect all tigers equally.