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Wildlife Trade Specialists

Published 5th April 2016

US tightens up legislation on captive Tiger breeding

Washington DC, USA, 5th April 2016—The United States Fish and Wildlife Service today announced new regulations restricting domestic trade in captive bred Tigers in the US.


A captive Tiger © Sybille Klenzendorf

The new rule under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) means that captive “generic” Tigers—Tigers of unknown genetic background or crosses between two different subspecies of Tigers—are no longer exempt from certain permitting requirements. 

Anyone selling Tigers across State lines must now first obtain an interstate commerce permit or register under the Captive-bred Wildlife Registration program regardless of whether it is a generic Tiger or a pure subspecies.

Permits will only be issued if traders can demonstrate that the transaction will benefit Tiger conservation. Any unable to do so, will be restricted to selling their animals intrastate, while anyone buying the animals will only be able to sell them locally too. 

The change in legislation was a key recommendation made in TRAFFIC’s 2008 report into the US Tiger trade, Paper Tigers?: The role of the U.S. captive Tiger population in the trade in Tiger parts (PDF, 2.5 MB)

“The USFWS are to be congratulated on helping bring about this key policy change, which will tighten up the captive breeding of Tigers making it less likely parts from them can infiltrate and stimulate black market trade,” said Crawford Allan, TRAFFIC’s Senior Director on Wildlife Crime. 

“All countries with captive Tiger populations need to ensure their legislation and monitoring systems are adequate to ensure these animals don’t pose a conservation threat to wild Tigers.” 

There are believed to be approximately 5,000 Tigers held in various facilities in the US, considerably more than the total population of wild animals in Asia. 

Currently no national system exists in the US to monitor how many Tigers there are, who trades and owns them and what happens to their parts when they die. 

“Today’s announcement was a significant step, but clearly there are many more steps needed,” said Allan.