Roadmap to Closing Captive Tiger Facilities of Concern

Stephen Wiggins Studies Leave a Comment

Current estimates indicate that there are at least 8,900 tigers being held in more than 300 facilities in East and Southeast Asia. Over 6,000 of these tigers are located in China, with the remaining animals found almost exclusively in Thailand (approx. 1,635), Lao PDR (451); and Vietnam (395)….The rate at which tigers are bred, traded from one facility to another, and slaughtered for illegal trade is not known but is believed to be high, accounting for the rapid shifts in captive tiger estimates. 

Additionally, there are significant concerns around captive tiger facilities and their role in the tiger trade in Myanmar, South Africa, and some EU Member States, as well as the large captive tiger population in the United States.

Tiger farming represents a significant animal welfare problem, with issues including indiscriminate breeding, crowding,
inappropriate housing systems, genetic abnormalities causing acute suffering, cruel practices perpetuated in order to
better control animals, inhumane slaughtering practices, poor diet, and early removal of cubs from mothers.

From a conservation perspective, the operation and scale of these captive tiger facilities of concern are a significant
obstacle to the protection and recovery of wild tiger populations, as it allows for two highly negative pressures on the
species to persist as they:

• undermine enforcement efforts: the movement (or leakage) of tiger products (including whole tigers, parts or derivatives) from such facilities to consumer markets complicates and thus undermines enforcement efforts aimed at stopping the trade in tiger products.

• help perpetuate (and grow) demand: The availability of any tiger products from captive tiger facilities serves to legitimise and normalise demand for such items. Given the high cost of raising tigers in captivity, these facilities have a vested interest in promoting demand for their products, whether by putting pressure on governments to allow their sale or by exploiting buyers who are unaware of the law or willing to ignore it. Given consumers’ preference for wild sourced tiger parts and products, even a modest expansion in the demand for tiger products could increase poaching pressures on wild populations.”

Roadmap to Closing Captive Tiger Facilities of Concern (October 2023)

Further Reading

If the captive big cat industry is left to thrive, species harm will be irreparable,” Daily Maverick, 23 January 2024

To skin a cat: how organised crime capitalises and exploits captive tiger facilities,” Wildlife Justice Commission, November 2022

Year of the Tiger?,” Four Paws, January 2022

Burning bright but fading fast: Tigers illegally exported from SA as lambs for slaughter,” Daily Maverick, 1 February 2022

Tiger Mafia,” by Karl Ammann, Co-Director and Wildlife Traffic Investigator, and Laurin Merz, Co-Director and Producer, September 2021

Shocking new footage reveals horrific conditions lions and tigers are subjected to at big cat farms in SA,” IoL, 27 November 2021

Tigers in Crisis,” Born Free Foundation

Boss of one of the world’s biggest traditional Chinese medicine brands fired for corruption,” Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), 25 October 2021

It’s not just SE Asia:

Tiger trafficking: the murky world of America’s big-money big cat trade,” The Guardian, 21 September 2021

Tiger Breeding in South Africa,” IWB, 24 April 2018

How ‘tiger farms’ have turned a wild animal into a species worth more dead than alive,” The Conversation, 24 February 2021

‘A monster we left in the corner’: The endurance of Asia’s tiger trade and the new ‘Tiger Queens’,” The Independent, 17 February 2021

Breeding and trading endangered wild animals is not conservation – it threatens their survival,” IWB, 10 February 2021

Trophy Hunting, Canned Hunting, Tiger Farming, and the Questionable Relevance of the Conservation Narrative Grounding International Wildlife Law,” Journal of International Wildlife Law & Policy, Taylor & Francis, 12 January 2021

Call for China to Amend its Wildlife Protection Law,” IWB, 4 December 2020

The Tiger Trade,” IWB, 7 May 2020

On the Butcher’s Block – the Mekong Tiger Trade Trail,” IWB, 8 March 2020





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