Moka. Photo courtesy Lions Tigers & Bears

I’m Moka. I’m five years old, and oh, I’m a tiger.

I had a traumatic experience when I was a cub living in MexicoI was much smaller, about 500 pounds smaller, and my owner would sneak me around in his car. One day, he put me under the car’s floorboard and said we were going to the U.S., somewhere called San Diego.

It was dark, and I was scared. Then, someone with a flashlight found me and scooped me up — thank goodness!

All that to say, I was rescued and now live at a sanctuary in Alpine. It’s a place where cats like me live, the ones that were born in captivity, most of us taken from our moms almost immediately. It’s strange, some humans don’t understand that petting animals like me is harmful.

We can’t go back into the wild because we never learned how to survive out there. My friends here were also rescued. Some of them were pets and abandoned once they got too big or lived in unaccredited roadside zoos with horrible care. 

I love my life now. I have a spacious habitat with a pool, toys, awesome meals — and even a best friend, Nola. We get to live together because we both got here when we were cubs.

She helps me — she’s way braver than I am, so we’re good roommates. Don’t tell her I said this, but she hogs all the attention. You’ll see what I mean when you visit the sanctuary.

I heard one of the ladies here tell a group that a law called the Big Cat Public Safety Act was just passed, so tiger cubs won’t be allowed to be a pet or owned by anyone in the whole country.

I’m glad to hear that; I don’t want any other tigers to feel scared like I did. That’s what I’m excited about — 2023 is going to be a special year for us big cats.

The Big Cat Public Safety Act passed in Congress in early December and was signed into law by President Biden on Dec. 20. The law provides what supporters call “historic protections” for lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, cougars, or any hybrid of these species.

Moka is a tiger that resides in Alpine at San Diego’s Lions Tigers & Bears big cat and bear sanctuary. Bobbi Brink is the founder of the sanctuary.


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Ellen Bullock