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Should There Be a National Tiger Registry?

Posted By Candice Gaukel Andrews On February 16, 2011 @ 1:08 pm In Eco Travel, Green Living | 7 Comments

Tiger [1]

There are more tigers in captivity (such as this one) than there are left in the wild. ©John T. Andrews

There are some statistics that you hear that knock your socks off, and you just can’t quite believe them. You think they’re concocted purely to get attention and for shock value. Here’s one I recently came across that fits that category: There are more tigers in American backyards than there are left in the wild throughout the world.

How could that be?! I wondered. After all, the tiger [2] isn’t even indigenous to the United States! It turns out that there is very little regulation on keeping wild tigers here. And because their body parts are prized in Asian black markets for traditional medicines and folk remedies [3] — and because they are popular subjects for photographers [4] and as college mascots — trafficking in and owning tigers becomes a means of making money.

While it’s estimated that there are about 3,200 tigers left in the wild, there could be 5,000 tigers captive in the U.S., making ours the largest tiger population worldwide. Only about 6 percent of those big cats live in zoos or sanctuaries certified by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The rest are living with private exotic pet owners and in big-game parks. Eight states [5] have absolutely no laws regarding keeping tigers as personal property: Alabama, Idaho, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Seventeen other states allow keeping the animals with a state permit or registration.

Tiger years

Tiger Registry blog [6]

A federal database to monitor captive big cats may help protect the world’s wild tigers. ©John T. Andrews

According to the Chinese zodiac, 2010 was the Year of the Tiger [7], and on November 21-24, the International Tiger Forum [8] was held in St. Petersburg in the Russian Federation. It was the world’s first global summit focused on saving a single species from extinction [9]. Leaders of thirteen countries — the last refuges of Asia’s [10] most iconic species — met to endorse a Global Tiger Recovery Program involving actions (such as how to protect breeding populations and natural habitats, and addressing poaching and international trade) meant to double the number of wild tigers to 7,000 by 2022, the next Year of the Tiger.

In just the past one hundred years, tiger numbers have dropped from 100,000 to about the 3,200 we think are left in the wild today. So when we know there are 5,000 captive here in the U.S., something seems off-kilter.

Owning what’s wild

While many U.S.-based conservationists and organizations [11] have been working to save wild tigers, our efforts might have more meaning and garner more respect if we took steps to manage the tigers in our own backyards. By supporting the establishment of a centralized federal database to monitor the big cats in captivity here, we’d have more leverage when we ask other nations that hold large numbers of captive tigers to help guard against trade in these animals from threatening their wild counterparts.

Cat [12]

Lap cat: content in captivity. ©John T. Andrews

Instead of losing our footwear over the astounding number of captive tigers, perhaps it is time we tried to put a cap on it. Since weak laws regarding having a pet tiger in the U.S. could be contributing to an international illegal market for wild tigers and tiger parts, do you think a centralized federal database to monitor captive tigers in the U.S. should be instituted, or is that too much regulation? Should private citizens even be allowed to own exotic wild animals?

Nearly every one of the 36 wild cat species in the world is considered endangered or threatened. It could be that the only cats we were meant to keep close are the ones we can hold on our laps [13].

Happy trails,


Article printed from Gaiam Blog: http://blog.gaiam.com

URL to article: http://blog.gaiam.com/should-there-be-a-national-tiger-registry/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://blog.gaiam.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/TigerRegistry.jpg

[2] the tiger: http://www.nathab.com/asia/wild-india

[3] traditional medicines and folk remedies: http://www.worldwildlife.org/what/globalmarkets/wildlifetrade/traditionalchinesemedicine.html

[4] popular subjects for photographers: http://blog.gaiam.com/blog/does-a-wildlife-photo-have-to-be-wild/

[5] Eight states: http://www.worldwildlife.org/species/finder/tigers/captive-tigers/index.html?enews=enews1011t

[6] Image: http://blog.gaiam.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/TigerDatabase2.jpg

[7] 2010 was the Year of the Tiger: http://blog.gaiam.com/blog/happy-chinese-new-year-bring-the-energy-and-passion-of-the-tiger-into-your-home/

[8] International Tiger Forum: http://www.globaltigerinitiative.org/

[9] focused on saving a single species from extinction: http://blog.gaiam.com/blog/how-far-should-we-go-to-rescue-at-risk-species/

[10] Asia’s: http://www.nathab.com/pacific

[11] U.S.-based conservationists and organizations: http://www.savetigersnow.org/

[12] Image: http://blog.gaiam.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/IMG_5204_Web.jpg

[13] the ones we can hold on our laps: http://blog.gaiam.com/blog/secondhand-mews/

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