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Federal agents find 'pseudo-narco zoo' in Mercedes

4 months 5 hours 54 minutes ago Friday, April 03 2020 Apr 3, 2020 April 03, 2020 8:37 AM April 03, 2020 in News

When the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration executed a search warrant in Mercedes last week, federal agents found themselves face-to-face with a tiger.

The DEA executed a search warrant March 25 in Mercedes, said Special Agent Sammy Parks.

Agents searched an approximately 5-acre property but didn’t make any arrests, Parks said, and the case remains under investigation.

Parks, who described the case as a narcotics investigation, said he couldn’t release details about the search warrant.

Agents did, however, encounter a wide variety of exotic animals on the property.

The discovery remained under wraps until April 2, when Austin Skero, the deputy chief patrol agent for the Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley Sector, tweeted about what he called “a pseudo-narco zoo.”

Skero said on Twitter that Border Patrol encountered a tiger, emus, llamas, porcupines and a kinkajou — a honey bear that lives in the rainforests of South America.

Parks said they also encountered deer, horses, pigs and a bobcat.

A local Border Patrol special operations team assisted DEA agents with the search warrant. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department assisted with the animals.

“The Texas Game Wardens, in coordination with a Texas Parks and Wildlife Department wildlife biologist, had to euthanize some of the native wildlife (a bobcat and whitetail deer) because they were unpermitted, being held illegally and the origin of the animals was unknown,” according to a statement released by the department. “It was determined that it wasn’t safe to reintroduce them into the native population.”

How to handle the tiger posed another problem for the DEA. Agents called the Austin Zoo for backup.

“We were able to help them out with the tiger situation that they had,” said Scott Chambers, the zoo director of animal care and veterinary services.

Chambers traveled to the Rio Grande Valley, where he picked up the white tiger — a female named “Zulema” — and took her back to Austin.

“She’s a very sweet little lady,” Chambers said.

Chambers said that Zulema appears to be a 9- or 10-month-old Bengal tiger. In the wild, she would still be considered a juvenile.

“She’s quite laid back for being mistreated and being kept in terrible conditions,” Chambers said.

The zoo will keep Zulema in quarantine for about 30 days, which is standard for new animals, Chambers said. After that, she’ll get a second chance at life.

“She’s still got a lot of growing to do,” Chambers said.

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