Texas Hispanics arrested for illegal sale of margay and jaguar cubs: first case under Big Cat Public Safety Act
Texas Hispanic couple faces federal charges after allegedly selling a margay cub and attempting to sell a jaguar cub
Federal prosecutors announced a landmark case Wednesday, with a Texas couple arrested for their alleged involvement in the unlawful sale of a margay cub and an attempted sale of a jaguar cub.
This marks the inaugural prosecution under the Big Cats Public Safety Act, a major milestone in the fight against the illegal wildlife trade.
Rafael Gutierrez-Galvan, 29, and his wife, Deyanira Garza, 28, both Alamo residents, made their initial appearance in federal court in McAllen, the Department of Justice confirmed in a recent press release.
According to the criminal complaint, Gutierrez Galvan allegedly sold a margay cub for $7,500 in the parking lot of a sporting goods store last month. This transaction set off the alarm and initiated the subsequent investigation.
In another incident, Gutierrez-Galvan attempted to sell a jaguar cub to the same individual this week. He allegedly ordered his wife to transport a box full of cash from his residence to the transaction site.
However, law enforcement officers intervened en route and discovered the cash, preventing the sale from taking place.
Authorities successfully recovered both the ocelot and the jaguar cubs, ensuring their safety, and authorities released images of the young felines as part of the investigation.
Neither Gutiérrez Galván nor Garza possessed the necessary licenses to engage in the purchase, sale, commercialization or transport of exotic animals, making their actions in violation of federal law.
As a result, they now face the prospect of up to five years in federal prison and a possible maximum fine of $20,000.
Big Cats Public Safety Act
Enacted in December of last year, the Big Cat Public Safety Act signifies a critical step in the fight against trade in banned wildlife species, including tigers, jaguars and leopards.
Jaguars, in particular, are classified as endangered and are therefore protected under the 50-year-old Endangered Species Act.
With only about 173,000 jaguars in the wild, these majestic creatures are classified as “near threatened” and predominantly inhabit rainforests and wetlands, with a significant population residing in Brazil, according to World Animal Protection.