The tigress was found in 2018 in the park of a restaurant in the capital, where she lived tied up, trembling and dirty. Its owners presented it as an “attraction”.

Since her rescue, Frida has had happy days at the Reino Animal Park, 53 hectares on the outskirts of Mexico City, not far from the pre-Hispanic ruins of Teotihuacan.

Frida “arrived with a damaged hip, she couldn’t walk, it was very sad,” says Agustin Bastida, the park’s marketing manager. “These are animals that people buy as pets, when they have to live in the open air, in wide open spaces.”

In her new living environment, the tigress walks around showing off her shiny coat. “She has recovered 100%. She is no longer in pain”, adds Mr. Bastida before warning: “Let’s not buy exotic animals. They are not pets”.

Rich in biodiversity, Mexico is a land of exotic wildlife trafficking, with a clientele that includes drug traffickers.

– 30 kilos of meat –

“There are many exotic birds, reptiles, many primates and felines” among the trafficked species, lists for AFP Lucio Garcia Gil, head of the federal prosecutor’s office for environmental protection (Profepa) in the metropolitan area of ​​the capital Mexico.

The prosecution claims to seize between 150 and 200 exotic animals each year, including a few felines (four this year).

The price of a tiger or a lion on the black market reaches between 1,000 and 5,000 dollars.

Mexican law allows the possession of exotic animals, provided they are purchased legally. Unlawful detention is punishable by nine years in prison and a $15,000 fine.

Only the rich can afford the luxury of trafficking wild animals that eat up to 30 kilos of meat a day, according to the park manager, who points to the responsibility of “organized crime”.

In 2007, the authorities discovered a house of drug traffickers “with two jaguars, two tigers and two lions”, says Mr. Garcia Gil.

According to media reports, Mexico’s most fearsome drug trafficker, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, gifted his daughters a monkey named “Botas” before a first arrest in Mexico in 2014.

It was the hunt for “Botas” that allowed investigators to trace Joaquin Guzman after his escape. He has since been serving a life sentence in the United States.

According to the UN Environment Program, global wildlife trafficking accounts for annual earnings of between $7 billion and $23 billion, the seventh most profitable illicit trade in the world.