Thursday
Jul312008

Paper Tigers: U.S. regulations on captive Tigers flawed

Lax regulations in the U.S. mean authorities have no way of knowing how many captive Tigers there are, who owns them, or what happens to their body parts when they die Click photo to enlarge © Sybille Klenzendorf   Washington, U.S., 31 July 2008—Huge gaps in U.S. regulations could make Tigers held in captivity a target for illegal trade, wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC and WWF found in the first-ever comprehensive report into captive Tiger regulations across the United States.

According to the report, Paper Tigers?: The role of the U.S. captive Tiger population in the trade in Tiger parts, the U.S. government has no way of knowing how many Tigers there are in captivity within its borders, where they are, who owns them, or what happens to their body parts when they die. In many states there are no controls on individuals keeping Tigers as pets.

A registration scheme for all captive Tigers and a means to monitor disposal of dead animals are urgently needed, says the report.

There are more than 5,000 Tigers estimated to be in captivity in the United States—more than the total wild population in Asia, of around 4,000 animals. They include animals bred in zoos, used for entertainment in carnivals or promotional exhibits, housed at rescue facilities, and Tigers that are privately owned.

The United States and other member governments of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna) have previously agreed to a Resolution whereby all countries where Tigers are bred in captivity should “ensure that adequate management practices and controls are in place to prevent [Tiger] parts and derivatives from entering illegal trade from or through such facilities.” The lack of a comprehensive management system for captive Tigers is clear evidence the U.S. has not fully implemented this Resolution.

CITES also agreed that countries should not breed Tigers on a commercial scale for trade in their body parts. Whilst the report found no current evidence of Tiger breeding for body parts in the U.S., the lack of regulations create a clear potential for it to begin.

“As a leader in promoting the conservation of Tigers, the United States has a responsibility to manage its captive Tiger population effectively to prevent any emergence of illegal trade,” said Leigh Henry, programme officer for TRAFFIC North America and co-author of the report. “Any supply of Tiger parts into the black market can stimulate trade and consumer demand, which could pose a serious threat to already dwindling wild Tiger populations.”

Tiger populations are fast declining worldwide due to poaching for illegal trade and habitat and prey loss. One of their main threats is the global demand for their bones, skins and other body parts for use as ingredients in traditional Asian medicine and as fashion items.

The report was funded by the Save the Tiger Fund.

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