The border patrol agents may have suspected trouble when they saw a group toting a duffel bag across the river. And any suspicions as to the contents of the bag would likely have been confirmed when the gang then discarded the item and fled. But when the officials opened the receptacle up and saw what was inside, they may not have believed their eyes.
The question of how best to safeguard the U.S. border is a much-debated one today. And in the process of ascertaining who and what crosses from and into America, members of U.S. Border Patrol are very much on the front line. Plus, according to National Border Patrol Council president Brandon Judd, this kind of work is frequently dangerous.
Indeed, in a 2017 statement Judd asserted that officers on the border are more often subject to violence than any other variety of law enforcement professionals. But although a May 2018 article by CNN has refuted Judd’s claim, there’s no denying that patroling the border is a potentially dangerous job. Any officer may be assaulted in the line of duty, after all.
Plus, U.S. Border Patrol agents sometimes find even more than they bargained for. That was the case in late April 2018 for Marshall Maynard, who assumed he would discover drugs when a bag was abandoned on the Texas side of the U.S.-Mexico border. Little did Maynard know, though, that he would soon be embarking on a rescue mission instead.
In May 2018 Maynard told The Brownsville Herald how he had “responded to some traffic” in the vicinity. Apparently, a gang of three individuals had traversed the Rio Grande in an attempt to cross the U.S. border. What’s more, there was apparently something troubling about the group.
And one member of the trio had been carrying a black duffel bag with them – an item that could have contained something prohibited in the States. However, as Maynard and his fellow border control officers prepared to confront the group, the gang had other ideas. Rather than risk arrest, they took off in the opposite direction.
Since the trio had retreated back across the Mexican border, Maynard and his colleagues couldn’t pursue them. But perhaps in their haste to escape, the individuals dropped whatever they were carrying. And, understandably, Maynard chose to investigate the suspicious receptacle.
Maynard added to The Brownsville Herald, “So that’s when I approached the bag [and] opened it up, and I immediately knew that I had found something special.” Rather than the drugs the agent was expecting, there was a wild animal in the bag – and it was alive.
In particular, Maynard realized that the group had been attempting to smuggle a tiger cub. But although he was still breathing, the cat didn’t move. In a statement to the Associated Press, Agent Robert Rodriguez claimed that the cub’s captors had likely sedated him for transport.
And veterinarian Tom deMaar concurred with that assessment. “You’re not going to stuff a live tiger into a bag without an argument,” he explained to The Washington Post in May 2018. Border control consequently contacted another authority to take care of the unfortunate feline.
Fortunately, the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville answered the call, and the facility temporarily offered the tiger cub a home. The big cat was in good hands, too, as the zoo not only houses many wild animals, but it also operates breeding programs for species in danger of extinction.
However, Gladys Porter Zoo was just a stop-off point for the tiger while they provided him with medical care. There, the attraction’s expert veterinarians treated him for dehydration and a 107-degree temperature. And while the cub recovered, staff at the zoo also sought out a more permanent home for him.
In addition, the cub received a name at the facility. The young animal now became “Agent Marshall” – presumably in honor of his rescuer. Then, when Agent Marshall was out of the woods, the zoo allowed the public to visit him for the duration of his stay.
But the tiger wouldn’t be at the attraction forever. Indeed, in a July 2018 post to Facebook, Gladys Porter Zoo wrote, “The last day to see the tiger cub rescued by Border Patrol Agents is tomorrow. Agent Marshall will be moving to a sanctuary in North Texas.” The zoo continued in a comment, “He’s going to a great facility with a much more natural space.”
Specifically, Agent Marshall would be heading to the non-profit organization In-Sync Exotics in the city of Wylie; there, he would have another tiger friend to keep him company. And, eventually, the cub received a further moniker: Kenobi, after the Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi from the Star Wars franchise.
Then, after Kenobi has been through a brief period of quarantine, staff at In-Sync will introduce the young animal to his new playmate Kylo Ren. And white tiger Kylo won’t just have a Star Wars-themed name in common with Kenobi, as the feline duo will ultimately share the same spacious enclosure as well.
Unfortunately, though, Kenobi is far from the only one to have suffered an initially tragic plight, as the U.S./Mexican border is somewhat of a hotspot for animal trafficking. Indeed, in 2016 conservation group Defenders of Wildlife (DOW) released information revealing that a shocking number of creatures are subject to smuggling into America.
For example, DOW’s 2016 fact sheet explained that close to 55,000 animals were trafficked into the U.S. from 2005 to 2014. In addition, three million pounds of smuggled goods made from animal parts were confiscated during that period. And these figures just account for the shipments that border control have seized; DOW believes that the actual numbers are significantly higher.
In fact, in 2017 DOW’s senior international counsel, Alejandra Goyenechea, had more to say on the subject to National Geographic. “[It’s] just the tip of the iceberg,” she said of the number of smuggled animals discovered by U.S. officials. “We cannot imagine how much more is happening that we haven’t caught.”
And as many animals starve to death or suffocate during the transportation process, Kenobi was fortunate that Maynard and the other border patrol agents found him when they did. Plus, of course, Gladys Sporter Zoo played a considerable role in nursing the cub back to health. That’s something of which the facility is well aware, too, as it wrote on Facebook, “We’re honored to have been able to be a part of [Kenobi’s] rescue and recovery.”