Tiger Farms: A Threat to Conservation of Wild Tigers
On Global Tiger Day, the undersigned organizations affirm their commitment to the protection and preservation of wild tigers, are committed to working in collaboration with governments across the globe, and in particular tiger range countries, to assure a future for tigers in the wild:
The important role conservation breeding plays in assuring a future for tigers and other endangered species. The organization seeks to raise awareness and a clear understanding however, that tiger farms are not conservation breeding programs, but rather a threat to the conservation of tigers in the wild. Tiger farms are commercial enterprises that breed and utilize tigers for profit, and not for conservation. WWF urges countries with tiger farms to immediately ban all trade in tiger parts, end tiger breeding for commercial purposes and to phase out their tiger farms. Such actions are fully consistent with decisions of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
The number of tigers on tiger farms has escalated rapidly in recent years, with 7,000-8,000 tigers reportedly held in a large number of facilities throughout East and Southeast Asia – most notably in China, Thailand, Lao PDR and Vietnam. This captive population is likely much higher than the remaining tigers in the wild, which are found across 11 range countries. Each of these last remaining wild tigers is threatened by the illegal trade in their body parts – from their skins down to their bones – which are traded by criminals for profit on the black market.
The current scale of commercial breeding operations on tiger farms is a significant obstacle to the protection and recovery of wild tiger populations.
Tiger farms are not conservation breeding programs: Tiger farms do not benefit the conservation of wild tigers, and must be differentiated from legitimate, accredited, zoos, whose focus is conservation. Conservation breeding programs have conservation as their primary aim, are part of a coordinated recovery effort, and generally are used to: address the causes of primary threats to a species, offset the effects of threats, buy time, and/or restore wild populations. Conservation breeding, followed by the reintroduction of animals into the wild, is one of the most frequently cited conservation actions that have led to improvements in a species’ status on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Tiger farms undermine enforcement efforts: The movement of tiger products from such facilities to consumer markets, through legal or illegal means, complicates and thus undermines enforcement efforts aimed at distinguishing and stopping the trade in wild tiger products. CITES prohibits all international trade for primarily commercial purposes in tigers, tiger parts, and tiger products.
Tiger farms perpetuate and increase demand: The availability of any tiger products or derivatives from tiger farms serves to legitimize and normalize consumer desire to purchase such items in a region currently experiencing profound and sustained economic growth. Increased market demand for tiger parts continues to fuel poaching of wild tigers because it is cheaper to kill a tiger in the wild for trafficking of its parts than to raise one for the same purpose. Even a modest expansion in the persistent demand for tiger products could trigger immense poaching pressures on wild tiger populations.
These concerns are well-founded, given the considerable evidence base showing that the vast majority of tigers killed by poachers are trafficked illegally from countries such as India, Russia, Nepal, Indonesia and Malaysia to countries currently permitting the operation of tiger farms within their borders.
We recommend countries take the following steps to reduce the impact of tiger farms on the wild tiger population and to remove the economic incentive for commercial breeding:
Prohibit domestic commercial trade in all tiger parts, from any source, by introducing laws which prohibit trade in all tiger products. Review existing laws and strengthen them where necessary to assure that there are no loopholes that enable trade (noting that international trade is already prohibited).
Implement a plan and timeline to phase out existing tiger commercial breeding facilities.
Prevent the establishment of new tiger farms (or expansion of existing tiger commercial breeding facilities).
Copyright: World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Press release