Illegally owned tiger rescued by California zoo

MOORPARK, Calif. (KEYT/CNN) - A tiger cub has a new home at a California teaching zoo after it was rescued from a social media influencer who featured the animal in a viral video.

Neil, a 400 pound Bengal tiger, is now a permanent resident at Moorpark College’s America’s Teaching Zoo.

“When we got Neil, he was our one and only tiger,” said Mara Rodriguez, who is part of the staff at the zoo.

Neil came to the zoo when he was just five months old back in 2017 when authorities discovered that the tiger was illegally owned through a video that was posted by YouTube personality, Logan Paul.

“It was very obvious to me with my years of animal training and behavior experience that I was observing an animal that was in desperate need of emotional support," Rodriguez said. "He seemed pretty terrified of most humans, specially men.”

Rodriguez has been with Neil since he got to the zoo, building a relationship and guiding him back to health.

“It was through many, many hours that we formed this relationship that was really unlike anything I have ever formed with an animal," she said.

About a month after Neil arrived, another zoo donated a female tiger named Karma.

“They happen to be two weeks apart and they have been best friends ever since,” Rodriguez said.

This is the first time the teaching zoo has had tigers, and students are taking full advantage of the opportunity.

“Working with Neil and Karma is my first experience with any big cat, so getting to work with a pair of them and see their natural behaviors and them working together has been a blessing," said Moorpark College student, Paige Vanoordt.

The zoo is looking to expand to provide the best possible home for their newest additions.

“We want to offer and provide both of our tigers with a larger, more natural home and we are hoping to do that by fundraising over the next year or so," Rodriguez said.

They are hoping to raise $2 million for a state-of-the-art habitat that will benefit the tigers and create a unique experience for students and the public.

According to the zoo’s website, it is home to over 130 animals, including some exotic and endangered animals.

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