At the same time that tigers are vanishing from their natural habitats, more than 5,000 tigers may exist in captivity in the U.S alone. Loopholes in current regulations allow many tigers to be held without any permit or reporting requirements, putting U.S. captive tigers at risk of entry into the illegal tiger trade - the biggest threat to the survival of wild tigers.
A recent study found that the federal government has no way to determine exactly how many captive tigers are in the U.S., where they are, who owns them, or what happens to them when they die.
This lax management makes the U.S. captive tiger population an easy target for black market sales. Without tighter regulation, this large population could become a "drip feed" of supply to fill demand for tiger parts, thereby perpetuating this market and further threatening wild tiger populations by putting them at increased risk of poaching.
Help strengthen U.S. laws to ensure captive tigers do not contribute to the endangerment of the world's remaining wild tiger populations.
Tell Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to use their authority to close existing loopholes in the permitting and monitoring of captive tigers in the U.S.
The number of tigers remaining in the wild continues to decline, and experts agree that the single largest threat to their survival is illegal hunting and trade. On the black market a tiger is worth 10 times more dead than alive. Parts from wild tigers are preferred over parts from captive tigers in traditional medicines and therefore fetch the highest prices. Any increase in demand caused by any sourcing of tiger parts (including U.S. domestic, captive-bred tigers) could threaten the conservation of wild tigers.
I urge you to use your authority to address critical flaws in the United States' management of its captive tiger population, particularly in relation to monitoring and reporting, and the laws and regulations governing ownership. Left unaddressed, these flaws could have global trade implications, allowing a channel for U.S. tigers to flow into international trade, and thereby perpetuating the illegal market for tiger parts and further threatening wild tiger populations. Specifically, I request that you take the following steps:
1) The U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should remove the exemption for "generic" tigers under the Captive-Bred Wildlife registration system. FWS should immediately promulgate new regulations requiring persons and facilities holding tigers to annually report their year-end inventory and activities conducted with tigers. By removing the "generic" tiger exemption, FWS will be better able to track the U.S. captive tiger population and ensure it does not contribute to illegal trade.
2) The U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service's Animal Care program should require annual reporting of numbers of tigers owned, births, mortality, and transfer or sale, by persons or facilities that are USDA licensed to exhibit, breed or trade live captive tigers. At present, there is no requirement to report, which makes it impossible to accurately determine how many tigers are being kept in USDA facilities or what is happening to their bodies and parts when they die or are killed. In the absence of the collection of such information, these animals are vulnerable to illegal trade, as well as to abuse and exploitation. Such reporting requirements would also reduce the risk to the general public from unsafe handling of these potentially lethal animals.
Again, I urge you to use your authority to adjust the relevant federal regulations as outlined above in order to safeguard wild tiger populations for future generations, to promote the public safety, and to protect captive tigers from abuse and neglect.