A tiger cub that was discovered by U.S. officials as a teenager attempted to smuggle him into the country now has a permanent home at the San Diego Zoo.
The 3-month-old Bengal and a 4-month-old Sumatran tiger brought from Washington, DC, to be its companion were both moved into their habitat at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park on Friday, San Diego Zoo officials stated in a media release.
Lori Hieber, senior mammal keeper at the park, told reporters the cubs feel right at home and are adjusting well.
"They're doing great. They act like little brothers — they play and cuddle a lot, and they squabble a bit like most brothers, but it's all natural, healthy behavior," she said.
The Sumatran tiger had been rejected by its mother and was brought to California from the Smithsonian National Zoo in early September as a playmate for the cub rescued during the smuggling ordeal, since experts believe it is best to raise them in pairs.
The Bengal was brought to the zoo Aug. 23 after being found during a vehicle inspection at the U.S.-Mexico border crossing in Otay Mesa.
He was stashed on the floor on a vehicle driven by an 18-year-old Perris resident, Luis Valencia, who has since been charged with unlawful importation and smuggling since Bengals are protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Valencia allegedly told authorities he bought the tiger in Tijuana and intended to keep him as a pet.
But now both cubs will become part of the Tull Family Tiger Trail at the nature park, where they will be on view to guests every day from 9 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. They may also appear from time to time on the zoo’s tiger cam.
The pair made their debut at the exhibit on Oct. 16 and quickly began tussling in the foliage and climbing trees, the park said.
While about the same size now, the Bengal is likely to eventually grow about 200 pounds larger than the Sumatran tiger, experts say.