On International Tiger Day in 2014, a shocking report, entitled Caged Assets: Tiger Farming and Trade, co-authored by The Born Free Foundation, shines the spotlight on tiger ‘farming’, as the species heads towards extinction in the wild.
This damning report brings attention to the little known industry of Asia’s barbaric captive-bred tiger farms, where animals can be kept in cramped unnatural conditions, with row upon row of cages filled with pacing malnourished tigers. These notorious establishments are often open to the public, with tigers displayed in entertainment shows.
Will Travers OBE, President of Born Free Foundation, explained: “On a day like today I must ask myself how we, as global citizens have allowed the majestic, emblematic tiger to arrive at this perilous situation. This International Tiger Day begs all of us, especially government leaders globally, to re-examine what is being done to save wild tigers, and to redouble our efforts to protect the last of the species before it’s too late.
China for example has only between 40 and 50 wild tigers remaining but over 5,000 tigers in captive breeding facilities, ranging in size from a handful of tigers to two establishments which have over 1,000 tigers in each. These facilities can be a ready source for a number of tiger products such as tiger skins - used as luxury home décor and for tiger bone wine, made by hanging tiger carcasses in vats of wine and then bottling - a prestigious item used to show wealth and status and gifted to curry favour or give thanks for a business deal.
Travers continued: “The tiger farming industry has absolutely no value for conservation - these tigers are often in a pitiful state, both in terms of their genetics and their welfare. So the question begs to be asked: why are these tigers being bred, if not for trade – trade now and trade for an anticipated future when wild tigers are even rarer and the monetary value of tiger products even greater. Clearly, these tiger farms are commercial concerns and their owners are banking on extinction.”
Poaching of tigers in range countries further afield, such as India, continues and despite a 1975 ban on international tiger trade, seizures of tigers and tiger products across the Asian region show a healthy ongoing trade, with a mingling of captive bred tigers and wild tigers. This highlights a growing concern among conservationists: that these captive bred tigers are not only feeding demand for tiger products across Asia but are also stimulating it, placing an additional and unsustainable pressure on their wild counterparts.
The illegal trade in tiger parts and products, poaching, conflict between tigers and communities living alongside them, and habitat loss and degradation have caused wild tiger populations to plummet to as few as 4,000 individuals.
Today’s report calls on all countries with tiger breeding facilities to urgently phase out tiger farms, destroy stockpiled tiger parts and implement measures which address the use of captive bred tigers in trade.
Travers concluded: “The many threats faced by tigers today cannot be underestimated and how we respond to them now is critical to the tiger’s future. Our children’s children will judge us on what we do now and we must ensure that tiger farming becomes almost a figment of their imagination, an aberration that was firmly consigned to history and will never again be repeated.”
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