Did you know there are around 5,000 captive tigers in the United States right now?
This is what I learned when I began conducting research on America’s tiger population seven years ago. What’s more astounding is that nearly 95% of these tigers are owned by individuals, not zoos.
Of those people who privately own a tiger here in the US, most aren’t trained to care for animals in general, let alone tigers. And, unbelievable as it sounds, there is no complete record of captive tigers in America.
The exact number of tigers living in captivity outside of zoos and accredited institutions in the US isn’t clear—some say it could be double what we estimated. What we do know is that it’ssignificantly more than the number of wild tigers in Asia.
Why does this matter? For two main reasons:
- These tigers could be victims of wildlife crime. Without strict regulations on the private ownership of tigers, we cannot prevent them, or their bones and skins, from finding a way into the lucrative illegal international black market.
- It’s a matter of public safety. It’s entirely possible that your neighbor has a tiger on his property and has never reported it to local officials or informed you. In some places, it’s easier to buy a tiger as a pet than to adopt a dog from a shelter.
Ready to do something about it?
Our government is primed and ready to take action. Stopping wildlife crime is already a priority thanks to President Obama’s leadership and the National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking.
Senior Policy Advisor, Wildlife Conservation
World Wildlife Fund