Cops were still trying to locate a missing 9-month-old Bengal tiger last seen in a Houston neighborhood Friday despite hundreds of tips — as “Tiger King” star Carole Baskin announced a $5,000 reward for the big cat’s safe return.
Ron Borza, commander of the Houston Police Department’s Major Offenders Division, said Friday the hunt for the male tiger, named India, has so far just led to dead ends for investigators.
“The latest, uh, we do not know,” Borza told reporters Friday when asked about the possible location of the endangered cat, adding that cops have gotten up to 300 phone calls on his possible location.
None of them, however, have led to tracking India down, Borza said.
“We’ve gone to a few locations here in Houston, and we have not had any luck finding the tiger yet,” Borza said.
Some of the tips from the public have “been a little crazy,” Borza added, without getting into details.
“A lot of sightings that haven’t panned out for us,” Borza told reporters. “And like I said, we know the group of people that are involved in the exotic animal trade here in Houston. We deal with them all the time … we’ve visited all of them and no luck so far.”
Borza said he believed India had been “passed around” roughly six or eight times since last being seen outside Sunday with Victor Hugo Cuevas, 26, who was arrested on felony evading arrest charges Monday after leading cops on a chase when they tried to question him about the tiger.
“I don’t think it’s out of Houston yet, maybe out of the county, but I don’t think so,” Borza said. “I think it’s still here in Houston.”
Meanwhile, Baskin, who runs Big Cat Rescue in Florida, is offering a $5K reward for India’s safe return.
The animal must be turned over to an accredited organization with the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries and the person who tips off investigators must give info to cops to convict the tiger’s buyer and seller, Baskin told the Houston Chronicle.
“Fixing the problem is putting the people in jail who are buying and selling these cats to begin with,” Baskin told the newspaper Thursday.
It’s unclear how Cuevas came into possession of the tiger, but Borza said he believed the man bought it from a woman in Houston involved in the exotic animal trade who is known to police.
“But I’m not sure,” Borza said. “I don’t know if he was just looking after the tiger or actually purchased it because a lot of times when we’re going after people dealing in exotic animals, they start passing the animal from house to house with people that are involved in this trade.”
Borza also accused Cuevas and his attorney, Micheal W. Elliott, of being uncooperative with investigators in the ongoing search for India.
Cuevas, who was released from Fort Bend County Jail on Wednesday, appeared for a hearing Friday in Fort Bend County, where prosecutors hope to revoke his bond in a 2017 murder case.
“So I’m hoping that that occurs and maybe if he goes to jail, he’d be more cooperative with us,” Borza said.
Asked if authorities had leverage on Cuevas given his legal troubles, Borza said that has yet to take shape.
“But we’re still going to work on that,” Borza said.
Elliott told The Post Tuesday he had given Houston police information on where to find India while insisting Cuevas did not own the animal. Elliott declined to discuss his client’s possible tie to the big cat.
“He is not the owner,” Elliott said. “He doesn’t have the tiger.”
Elliott told the Houston Chronicle prior to Friday’s hearing that Cuevas “loves this tiger very much” and cared for it occasionally.