In response to today’s announcement by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) that it will improve the regulation and monitoring of the U.S.'s large captive tiger population, World Wildlife Fund (WWF) issued the following statement from Leigh Henry, senior policy advisor for wildlife conservation and co-author of the first study to look at the connection between these cats and illegal trade:
"The U.S. just threw a lifeline to tiger populations fighting to make a comeback in the wild. By tightening regulations around captive tigers, the U.S. is making it harder for captive-bred tigers to filter into and stimulate the black market that threatens wild tigers in Asia.
"More tigers exist in captivity in the U.S. than remain in the wild globally. Astonishingly, there is no system in the U.S. to monitor how many captive tigers there are, who owns them, when they’re sold or traded, and what happens to their parts when they die.
"The new regulations by USFWS are a critical first step toward ensuring that tigers bred in the U.S. aren’t helping fuel the illegal trade that drives poaching of wild tigers overseas. It's also another sign that the Obama administration takes wildlife crime seriously.
"But there is more to be done. The U.S. must continue to improve its regulation of the estimated 5,000 tigers within its borders and work with other countries with large captive tiger populations, most notably China, to map a way forward so that these animals aren't a threat to the conservation of tigers in the wild. The U.S. and China recently stepped up with joint commitments to end the trade of elephant ivory. This collaboration should serve as a model for protecting other threatened wildlife, and with only a few thousand left in the wild, tigers should be among the highest priorities."