India the tiger, two years after roaming Houston neighborhood, dies at Texas wildlife sanctuary

The Bengal tiger was the subject of a weeklong search in 2021 that captivated the city and country as a whole.

India Bushes
Christi Gilbreth/Black Beauty Ranch
India, the Bengal tiger that roamed a Houston neighborhood in 2021, died in December 2023 at Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch in Murchison, Texas.

A Bengal tiger that was seen roaming a West Houston neighborhood in 2021 – and subsequently was the subject of a weeklong search that captivated the city and the country as a whole – died this week at a wildlife sanctuary in northeast Texas.

The 3-year-old big cat named India is suspected to have succumbed to cancer, according to a Thursday morning Facebook post by Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch in Henderson County, where the tiger had lived since leaving Houston as a 9-month-old in May 2021.

India previously had been in the possession of Victor Cuevas, a Houston man who since has been convicted of a 2017 murder in Fort Bend County. Cuevas allegedly fled police with the tiger in his sport-utility vehicle after the animal was spotted sitting on his front lawn, Harris County court records show. A search for India ensued, with Cuevas' wife releasing the tiger to the City of Houston animal shelter a week later.

"We wanted to share this heartbreaking news with our incredible supporters who have been following India's story from the day we took him in from the streets of Houston in 2021 where he was roaming in the neighborhood where he was kept as a pet," Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch wrote in its post. "All who knew India are deeply saddened by his loss."

India Tiger Splashing
Christi Gilbreth/Black Beauty Ranch
India, a Bengal tiger, splashes in the water at Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch in Murchison, Texas.

India was "not acting like himself" early this week, the wildlife sanctuary wrote, becoming less active, less responsive to his caregivers and "not exploring his large habitat as he normally would." His appetite also was diminished, prompting sanctuary officials to decide to sedate him so he could be examined by veterinarians.

But before the tiger was sedated, he "passed away naturally," according to Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch.

"The initial findings for his cause of death indicated that India's intestinal tract had an abnormal portion that is suggestive of cancer and his system went septic," the wildlife sanctuary wrote. "We will not know for sure whether cancer was the ultimate cause until final lab results come back to us in several weeks."

In May 2021, residents of a neighborhood in Houston's Energy Corridor reported seeing the tiger on the loose outside of Cuevas' home on Ivy Wall Drive. An off-duty Waller County deputy who lived in the subdivision observed India "sitting on the front lawn," according to court records, which show that Cuevas then came out of his home yelling "Don't shoot my cat!"

India Tiger Houston
Video shows a loose tiger, identified as “India,” approaching a Waller County deputy in Houston in May 2021.

Cuevas is then alleged to have gotten the tiger into the back seat of a white Jeep Grand Cherokee before fleeing place with India in tow. Cuevas was subsequently charged with the felony crime of evading arrest in a motor vehicle, although court records show that case was dismissed.

Cuevas was convicted last year of the 2017 murder of Oseikhuemen Omodhude, 20, and sentenced to 18 years in prison, according to Fort Bend County court records.

The tiger Cuevas once handled was described as "beautiful, energetic, playful and curious" by the wildlife sanctuary.

"We at Black Beauty Ranch were truly honored to provide him with the best care and life he deserved and the freedom to be a tiger and flourish into a wild animal," the sanctuary wrote. "RIP amazing India. You will always be in our hearts."