In the first case brought under the Big Cat Public Safety Act, a couple in Texas has been detained after allegedly trying to sell a jaguar cub and selling a margay cub.
The Justice Department announced in a press release that Alamo residents Rafael Gutierrez-Galvan, 29, and his wife, Deyanira Garza, 28, appeared in federal court in McAllen on Wednesday.
The criminal complaint claims that Gutierrez-Galvan sold a margay cub for $7,500 at a sports goods shop parking lot last month.
Prosecutors claim that this week, Gutierrez-Galvan attempted to sell the same person a jaguar cub while reportedly ordering his wife to deliver a case of cash from their home to the deal’s site. However, law enforcement agents allegedly pulled her over when she was headed to the transaction and discovered the cash there.
Authorities found the margay and the jaguar and made pictures of the cubs available.
Both Gutierrez-Galvan and Garza, who lack permits to purchase, sell, exchange, or transport exotic animals, risk up to five years in federal prison and a maximum punishment of $20,000.
According to officials, the case was jointly investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Homeland Security Investigations, Texas Parks and Wildlife, and the zoos in Houston and San Antonio.
The importation, sale, and possession of restricted animal species, such as tigers, jaguars, and leopards, are all outlawed by the Big Cat Public Safety Act, which was passed in December. The Endangered Species Act, which has been in effect for 50 years, protects jaguars since they are categorized as endangered.
The World Animal Protection classifies jaguars as “near threatened” due to the fact that there are only about 173,000 of the cats left in the wild. The majority of them reside in marshes and rainforests, with Brazil home to nearly half of all populations.
According to the International Society for Endangered Cats, margays, which resemble ocelots, are “among the most beautiful and mysterious of the spotted cats in the Americas.” The IUCN Red List has the margay under the threat category of “near threatened”. According to the society, it is regarded as “vulnerable” in Argentina and Brazil and “threatened” in Costa Rica and Mexico.