Texas couple arrested for jaguar cub deal in first case charged under Big Cat Public Safety Act

Texas couple arrested for jaguar cub deal in first case charged under Big Cat Public Safety Act

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A couple in Texas has been arrested after allegedly selling a margay cub and attempting to sell a jaguar cub in the first case charged under the Big Cat Public Safety Act, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

Rafael Gutierrez-Galvan, 29, and his wife, Deyanira Garza, 28, both of Alamo, appeared in federal court in McAllen on Wednesday, the Justice Department said in a news release.

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According to the criminal complaint, Rafael Gutierrez-Galvan tried to sell a jaguar cub.

Justice Department


According to the criminal complaint, Gutierrez-Galvan sold a margay cub last month for $7,500 in a parking lot of a sporting goods store.

This week, Gutierrez-Galvan then tried to sell a jaguar cub to the same person, allegedly instructing his wife to bring a case of cash from their home to the location of the deal, prosecutors said. While she was en route to the transaction, however, law enforcement officers conducted a traffic stop and allegedly found the cash.

Authorities recovered both the margay and jaguar and released images of the cubs.

Gutierrez-Galvan and Garza — neither of whom have a license to buy, sell, trade or transport exotic animals — face up to five years in federal prison and a possible $20,000 maximum fine.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Homeland Security Investigations spearheaded the case with the assistance from Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Houston and San Antonio Zoos, officials said.

The Big Cat Public Safety Act was enacted last December and bans the importation, sale and possession of prohibited wildlife species, such as tigers, jaguars and leopards. Jaguars are also listed as an endangered and are therefore protected under the 50-year-old Endangered Species Act.

With only about 173,000 jaguars left in the wild, the animals are considered “near threatened,” according to the World Animal Protection. They typically live in rainforests and wetlands with about half of the world’s population living in Brazil.

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According to the criminal complaint, Rafael Gutierrez-Galvan sold a margay cub last month for $7,500 in a parking lot of a sporting goods store.

Justice Department


Margays, which resemble ocelots, are “among the most beautiful and mysterious of the spotted cats in the Americas,” according to the International Society for Endangered Cats. The margay is classified “near threatened” by the IUCN Red List. In Costa Rica and Mexico it is considered as “threatened,” and in Argentina and Brazil as “vulnerable,” according to the society.

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