Tunisian officials uncovered four white tiger cubs being smuggled across the border to Libya, the customs department said Saturday.
The cubs were found hidden in the car of a Libyan driver at the southern Ras Jedir border post, a statement by Tunisian customs said.
According to Tunisian authorities, the Libyan said he “bought the tigers in a private zoo” in the eastern Enfidha region.
The zoo where the Libyan claimed to have bought the cubs announced the birth of tigers around two months ago.
“But he did not have documents with him proving the purchase and he did not have the necessary authorizations to leave Tunisian territory,” the customs department said.
White tigers and lions are extremely rare, with only a few hundred worldwide, and owe their appearance to a recessive gene.
The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates that the number of wild tigers has plunged from 100,000 in 1900 to around 3,900 today.
Numbers have edged back up in recent years but the species is still vulnerable to extinction, the WWF says.
The cubs seized in Tunisia were handed over to a department within the Ministry of Agriculture in the country’s southern Medenine province.
A judicial investigation has been opened into the driver, Tunisian officials said, although he was not immediately arrested.