Mexican drug traffickers’ fascination with exotic animals was put on display last week when a spider monkey dressed as hit man of a cartel died in a shootout, a 450 pound tiger wandered the streets of the state of Nayarit and a man died after petting a captive tiger in a region dominated by a cartel in the state of Michoacán.
Photos from a shootout with police in Texcaltitlán, Mexico State, in the center of the country in which 11 drug traffickers were killed, showed a small monkey — dressed in a camouflage jacket and “bulletproof” vest — over the body of a gunman. who apparently owned it. Inexplicably, the gunman had a plastic bucket covering his head.
The authorities in the State of Mexico confirmed the authenticity of the photos and they said it was unclear if the monkey — who was also wearing a diaper — was killed in the shootout that killed its owner.
The prosecution confirmed that “a primate lost its life at the scene, presumably it was the property of an alleged criminal, who also died during the same events.”
“The necropsy of the animal will be carried out by a veterinary doctor specializing in the species” and charges of animal trafficking are being studied against the suspects who survived the shooting, they added.
The monkey, as commonly happens in these cases, he composed his own “corrido”the Mexican folk ballad often composed in honor of drug lords.
“It’s a very short life, it wasn’t up to the monkey,” reads the song, broadcast on social networks.
Tiger roams the streets
In another incident that occurred in the state of Nayarit, the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection said it had confiscated a tiger in the town of Tecuala, on the Pacific coast. It is located near the border with Sinaloa, home to the cartel of the same name.
The government agency said it acted “in response to reports of a walking bengal tiger through the streets of Tecuala”, and concluded that someone illegally possessed the animal.
Those reports were based on a video posted on social media this week showing a young woman screaming as she ran into a tiger on a residential street.
Authorities said the tiger had had its fangs and claws removed, and a man can be seen in the video nonchalantly placing a noose around the neck of the feline and taking it with him.
Another tiger killed a man
But, the most tragic story that happened last week took place in Michoacán, in the west of the country, which has been dominated for years by the United Cartels and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel.
On Sunday, authorities confirmed that a tiger killed a man in Peribán, a town in the state’s avocado region, where gangs demand payments from the profitable avocado trade.
In a video posted on social media, the authenticity of which could not be confirmed, the man calls out to the tiger on the side of a fenced enclosure. The man stands outside the compound, apparently feeding it with one hand while he reaches through a fence with his other arm to stroke its neck.
The man then screams in pain as the tiger bites his outstretched arm, not letting go. In the long run the tiger hurt both arms. The individual died days later in a hospital, confirmed local authorities.
Mexican law allows private citizens to keep exotic animals as long as they register them under strictly supervised conditions.
Animals as a symbol of drug power
The security analyst, David Saucedo, stated that criminals sometimes they get those permits. Saucedo says drug traffickers often keep exotic animals as symbols of power and status, mimicking Colombian drug traffickers of the 1980s and 1990s.
“Mexican drug traffickers copied from the drug traffickers of the Medellin cartel the custom of acquiring exotic animals and setting up private zoos,” he said. “According to the codes of the aristocracy of drug traffickers, having a private zoo was a prerequisite to be part of the select circle of wholesale drug traffickers.”
“Some drug bosses, like Heriberto Lazcano, leader of the Zetas, acquired exotic fauna to torture or make their victims disappear,” Saucedo said. “Several of their enemies were devoured by the tigers or crocodiles that the Zetas kept in their breeding grounds and dens.”
He also remembers exotic collections such as those owned by Pablo Escobar, the leader of the Medellin cartel, who brought four hippos to Colombia to his personal zoo —which had more than 1,200 animals—, who reproduced and whose decency, in this 2022, has been estimated at more than 90 copies. These specimens, according to the authorities, have damaged the ecosystem where they are found.