Indians against illegitimate tiger breeding and ownership in the US

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Tigers are bred in captivity and farmed around the world in commercial operations to the detriment of wild tigers. Captive breeding and private ownership of tigers encourages poaching, a primary threat to the tiger’s survival. 

I am asking people from India, the country with the highest number of wild tigers in the world, to sign this petition and help me pressure the US Congress to adopt the Big Cat Public Safety Act as federal law. Securing a future for wild tigers involves ending captive breeding of tigers in commercial operations and private ownership, which is what the Big Cat Public Safety Act will do.


From: The Undersigned Big Cat Public Safety Act Supporters

To: The U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate

Re: Support from tiger range countries to adopt the Big Cat Public Safety Act

We want to see the end of tiger breeding and captivity in commercial operations. Breeding tigers in captivity may appear to save wild tigers and release poaching pressure on wild tigers. In practice the opposite is true - captive tigers supply the illegal trade and provide human-bred tigers for human ‘consumption.' This creates demand for wild tigers and their parts. The majority of captive tigers around the world are not bred to maintain genetic diversity and have no conservation value. 

There are less than 3,000 wild tigers left in India while there are an estimated 5,000 - 10,000 captive tigers in the United States (US). Inadequate US policy has allowed tiger breeders and owners to exploit tigers for commercial and personal purposes. There is currently no federal law that prohibits or regulates breeding or private ownership of tigers. Laws at state and local levels vary widely and there is no cohesive strategy towards managing the US captive tiger population. This year, the US Congress will vote on whether to pass the Big Cat Public Safety Act. If adopted as a federal law, it would ban pet tiger ownership and public cub handling, which is driving tiger breeding in the US.

We formally request the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate to adopt the Big Cat Public Safety Act in order to protect our own natural heritage - India's wild tiger.


Big Cat Public Safety Act supporters from India



The endless supply of legal captive tigers in the US could supply parts to the illegal market, stimulating demand and poaching of wild tigers in India. The US has thousands of privately-owned tigers and we don’t know where they go when they become unwanted or die. 

There are an estimated 5,000 - 10,000 captive tigers in the US, compared to the 2,967 that are left in India. In the US, only 300 of the tigers held in captivity are found in accredited and legitimate zoos. 

The thousands of other captive tigers in the US have no value for species conservation due to cross-breeding among tiger subspecies. For US tiger breeders and owners, a tiger is only profitable as a cub between the ages of 8 and 12 weeks, when tigers are permitted to interact with the public during cub petting. After 12 weeks, they become an expense. A few tigers that are no longer wanted by breeders or owners can go to an animal sanctuary but most tigers are illegally killed, and many US states lack laws specific to the disposal of dead tigers. We have no knowledge of what happens to disposed tigers or their parts. 

​Tiger skin and bones are valued at $20,000 and $7,000 on the illegal wildlife market, respectively. Seizures of illegally traded tigers and tiger parts around the world have increased since 2002 and America’s endless supply of legal captive tigers may potentially supply parts to this burgeoning illegal market. For example, from 2015 to 2016, Arongkron Malasukum exported 68 packages of tiger and lion skulls, claws, and other parts (valued over $150,000) from the US to Thailand. 

There are other countries besides the US that allow and encourage captive tiger breeding. China, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, and South Africa operate tiger farms. These tiger farms have systematically supplied the illegal demand for tiger parts. The argument for meeting the demand for tiger parts with captive tigers is that this captive supply displaces poaching pressure from wild tigers.

On the contrary, tiger farming leads to increased poaching pressure on wild tigers. The availability of farmed tiger parts stimulates demand. In addition, consumers of tiger derivatives, like tiger bone wine and medicinal products, prefer parts sourced from wild tigers and are willing to pay a premium price for wild-sourced products. 

The US has the opportunity to be a global leader in phasing out captive tigers that have no benefit to wild tiger conservation but, has not done so. If the US adopts the Big Cat Public Safety Act as a law, it would address the illegitimate breeding and ownership of tigers. The law would create momentum for us to address tiger farming in other parts of the world.

By signing this petition circulated by me (Ms. Sarika Khanwilkar, founder and executive director of Wild Tiger, a US-based tiger conservation non-profit) you are telling the US government to pass the Big Cat Public Safety Act into law. This will decrease the number of tiger parts that are trafficked in the illegal trade and ultimately reduce poaching to help save India's national animal.