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Tiger trafficking is still a major threat to the survival of world’s tigers

Tiger laying in shade

Breeding facilities, also known as tiger farms, continue to fuel the illegal trade of tigers and their parts. More than half of tigers seized in Thailand and almost a third of those seized in Vietnam all came from such breeding facilities. In 2016, a seizure at just one tiger farm in Thailand found 187 tigers.

The proportion of whole tigers—both alive and dead—seized by law enforcement has also been significantly larger since 2016 than in proceeding years. The findings--all part of a new report by TRAFFIC, the global wildlife trade monitoring network.

Tiger fang next to pen

A confiscated tiger fang is compared to the size of a pen. The availability of items like this puts all tigers at risk of poaching.

The leakage of tiger specimens, parts and products from tiger farms into the illegal market threatens wild tigers. The availability of tiger parts increases demand and legitimizes the use of such products and puts all tigers at risk from poaching. With only 3,890 tigers left in the wild, countries must strengthen measures to regulate, manage, and inspect captive tiger facilities

Captive breeding facilities are often unregulated and legal in Asian countries. Significantly, tiger range countries in Southeast Asia that have allowed captive breeding facilities within their borders are witnessing the greatest declines in their wild tiger populations. In Thailand, Lao PDR, and Vietnam, tiger numbers have declined in recent years, with the species now functionally extinct in Lao PDR and Vietnam.

Together with TRAFFIC, WWF is working with governments to shut down their illegal markets, strengthen legislation and law enforcement effectiveness, and reduce demand for tiger parts and products. With captive tiger facilities contributing to the trade, we are working with countries with active tiger farms to ban the sale of tiger parts from any source and ultimately phase out these facilities.

This month, WWF attended the 18th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). This international meeting in Geneva aimed to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

“Trade from tiger farms fuels demand and hampers enforcement, which means tigers in the wild face more threat from poaching,” says Ginette Hemley, WWF’s senior vice president of wildlife conservation. “Such facilities need greater scrutiny and tighter controls. We welcome the decisions made here in Geneva that will work towards strengthening legislation, improving law enforcement, reducing demand for tiger parts and products and addressing the role tiger farms are playing in perpetuating the illegal tiger trade.”

Here in the US, there is much to be done to improve regulations on keeping tigers privately. You can help ensure that the US does its part in the fight against illegal tiger trade by supporting the Big Cat Public Safety Act (H.R. 1380).