PHOENIX - A man who police say was in illegal possession of a tiger cub and tried to sell the animal has been indicted.
Phoenix Police say 25-year-old Carlos Eduardo Castro Alcaraz was arrested on Jan. 23. An investigation began after officers received a tip that Alcaraz was trying to sell a baby tiger on social media for $25,000. Detectives reportedly posed as buyers, and negotiated a price of $20,000.
The tiger was recovered as officers served a search warrant at a home near 27th Avenue and Baseline Road.
"When they were doing that search warrant, you could hear the tiger in the background moaning. You could hear that something wasn’t right," said Sgt. Brian Bower with the Phoenix Police Department. "The tiger, specifically, was in a very small cage. Kind of a cage that you would find as a dog kennel. Approximately 2/3 feet."
Inside the home, officers also found several other animals, including baby snapping turtles and a baby American alligator in a small aquarium.
According to police, Alcaraz claimed he bought the tiger for $8,000 because the owner wasn't taking care of it. Alcaraz was released from custody, but no one answered the door at his home. Meanwhile, a trash bag outside showed a wild cat printed blanket. Alcaraz's next-door neighbor said they only heard dogs and never a tiger.
Officials say they do not know where Alcaraz got the exotic animals, but they are trying to figure that out.
On Feb. 28, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office announced Alcaraz was indicted by a grand jury on one count of unlawful taking/handling/possession/sale of wildlife, which is a class 6 felony.
Experts shocked at what happened
Wildlife experts were in shock to find out what kind of conditions the exotic animals were kept in. They were also shocked the animals were found in a private home, in violation of state law.
"It's not something you hear about happening often here in Arizona. However, it is a problem," said Kristy Hayden, President of Wildlife World Zoo. "It's a problem worldwide, and it’s a problem that greatly affects the population of these tigers."
Hayden said the exotic animals are in properly accredited facilities for a reason: when they are in captivity. Most experts deal with adult tigers through protective barriers.
"That little cub is going to grow up to a 500lbs tiger, and tigers are apex predators," said Hayden. "That tiger can not only hurt you, but that tiger is a liability to everyone around them, and then the tiger ultimately can pay if something happens."
Scottsdale rescue takes in cub
Now, the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center says the tiger lives in a special enclosure inside its animal hospital in Scottsdale.
According to Linda Searles, the director of the wildlife rescue, the cub was "a little wobbly" at first but is now eating well.
"We are proud to say the tiger cub is a very active and healthy cub," said Searles in a statement. "She has received lots of enrichment from the Animal Care Team and Medical Staff at the Southwest Wildlife Conservation Center. She has plenty of toys and entertainment to keep her busy while she waits to be taken to her forever home."
A man who police say was in illegal possession of a tiger cub and tried to sell the animal has been arrested. (Phoenix Police Department)