India, the Bengal tiger that caused a stir by meandering through a Houston neighborhood two years ago, has died at a Texas animal sanctuary. The Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch announced the demise of the young feline, noting that the 3-year-old had recently become lethargic and unresponsive to his caregivers. The suspected cause of death is cancer, but laboratory tests are forthcoming to confirm the exact reason, as reported by the Houston Chronicle.
The tale of India first hit the headlines after the tiger was found prowling Ivy Wall Drive on Mother's Day in 2021, a scenario far removed from the creature's natural habitat. The incident set off a city-wide manhunt, drawing attention not just locally but across the nation. Compounding the circus was the identity of India's owner, Victor Cuevas, a man embroiled in a murder case who attempted to hide the tiger from authorities for a week before surrendering the animal, according to ABC13.
India's stay at the sanctuary involved significant adjustment as the tiger had to unlearn behaviors from its domestic upbringing. Christi Gilbreth, one of the animal's caretakers, said in a statement obtained by the Houston Chronicle, "When India came to the sanctuary, he had to unlearn some of the habits he had from growing up with people." Gilbreth highlighted the animal's initial comfort around humans and the corrective measures staff had to take to manage his health and natural instincts.
Cuevas, meanwhile, is serving an 18-year prison sentence for a 2017 murder and has insisted that he did not legally own the tiger. India's story added fuel to the ongoing debate over exotic pet ownership, which, while legal in Texas, is banned in Houston city limits. The escapade brought to light the city's relatively minor $500 fine for owning a big cat and sparked discussions about the suitability of such animals as pets. The tiger's short life and the circumstances that brought him into the public eye will likely continue to raise questions about exotic animal legislation, but for now, those who followed India's journey mourn his loss.