It took 2 million years for the tiger to evolve into the biggest and most majestic cat in the world. In 1900 there were 100,000 tigers in the wild now only 3,000 remain. A tragic loss by any measure but many people are aware of it.

What people are not aware of is how many tigers exist in this country today. In 1900 the U.S. had 50 tigers held by exhibitors, with the advent of zoos and circuses their population increased to a few hundred in the 1950s. The population stabilized in the 1960s when TV and movies lured audiences away zoos and circuses. But in the 1970s tigers became popular, beginning with tiger acts in Las Vegas and tigers appearing on television variety and talk shows. Animal Training became a profession. Tigers were used in advertising and as celebrity ornaments, the idea of exotic pet ownership took hold with people believing you could buy and care for these cats.

The tiger population in this country grew from a few hundred to 5,000 today.

Zoos, Circuses and Sanctuaries have about 500, the remaining 4,500 are owned by Breeders who breed and sell the cubs, Exhibitors who show them, Dealers who collect the old cats and deliver them to Dead Zoos that butcher them for parts or ranches where they are killed in canned hunts. And some are owned by private individuals who keep them as pets.

There are more tigers in captivity in America than tigers that exist in the wild.

These tigers were not captured in the wild and imported, They were bred here and will remain here for the rest of their lives. They are mixed breeds derived mainly from Bengal and Siberian ancestors and referred to as "generic tigers" and have no conservation value and are not regulated by the customary government agencies. This loophole in the law allows these tigers to be bred, bought, sold and destroyed without being recorded. The generic tiger classification along with commercial demand is what drives the tiger breeding farms and has led to this over population

There is no wildlife habitat in the US for them and no possibility of introducing them back into the wild because they have been hand fed since they were two days old and not able to hunt for food. Zoos will not take them because they are generic. No one wants or can afford to feed them. They have no place to go.

The vast majority live in small, concrete and chain link prison cells in conditions that most people would readily perceive as deplorable. Many die prematurely of disease, neglect, starvation, being put down when no longer wanted, or shot and dismembered for their parts.

This is an American problem of animal abuse, not a wildlife conservation problem.


In 1900 there were 100,000 tigers in the wild, now only 3200 remain. Threats to their survival are loss of habitat and prey as well as poaching and poisoning. While protected by law, poaching still goes on, driven by the market value for tiger parts.

In 1982 the tiger Species Survival Plan (SSP), developed by Ulysses S. Seal with the Minnesota Zoo,  became the first breeding program developed for captive tigers in North America. Ron Tilson took the responsibility for managing the Siberian tiger population in 1987 and has served as Tiger SSP coordinator since 1992.

The success of this program ensures the Siberian subspecies will exist beyond our lifetimes due to the genetic diversity and the care provided to the tigers by 91 AZA zoos in North America that participate in this program.

Unfortunately, also in the 1980s, another form of breeding developed, backyard breeding.  As tiger popularity increased, demand increased, and the supply in the form of backyard breeders multiplied. Breeding tigers for commercial use became a business. This breeding was done without regard to species or record-keeping. Siberian tigers were bred with Bengals and other sub-species, resulting in what is called "generic tigers."

In 1998 the federal Captive-Bred Wildlife regulations requiring tigers to be registered and tracked were modified to exempt generic tigers. This was effectively a license to breed without consequence. It made a bad situation worse and contributed to the present overpopulation of unwanted tigers in this country.

The public story presented by breeders conceals a cruel and avaricious reality. They breed tigers without any consideration for animal husbandry or genetic diversity. What is important to breeders is the number of cubs and the color combinations that might be realized. There are breeders who advertise new 'American' tiger species: golden tabbies and other stripe color variations. And then there are ligers, tigons and other strange and completely unnatural pairings. While they advertise conservation education and 'saving the gene pool', in reality it is all about the money: an exotic color or unusual appearance means cash to the breeders and exhibitors.

These tiger mills breed generic tigers used for pay-to-play sessions where the public pays to pet or pose with a baby tiger. Once the cubs are too old to use they are discarded into the pet trade, warehoused in tiny, barren cells, or disappear into the black market for tiger parts.

In the wild, a female tiger breeds about every three years. It takes that long to raise and train her litter of cubs. Breeders take the cubs from their mothers when they are two days old; the mothers are bred again as many as 3 times each year. This takes a huge toll on breeding females and the cubs who rely on them. Tigers are genetically geared to be the most protective mothers in the world. After ten years of breeding 20 to 30 litters, and giving birth to over 100 cubs, the mother tiger is discarded and usually dies of breast cancer.

Breeding sad
Grieving mother tiger in Oklahoma, cubs taken at 2 days old.

Breeders advertise in print and online.

The $30,000 ad below is from the June 2011 issue of Animal Finders Guide.

Animal finder ad

snow tiger for sale



The closing decades of the twentieth century saw the rise of a new kind of "sport" in North America: the canned hunt. Although canned hunts advertise under a variety of names -- most frequently hunting preserves, game ranches, or shooting preserves -- they can be identified by the two traits they all have in common: they charge their clients a fee to kill an animal; and they violate the generally accepted standards of the hunting community, which are based on the concept of "fair chase." In some cases animals may be shot in cages or within fenced enclosures; in others they may be shot over feeding stations; some of the animals are tame and have little fear of humans, while others may be tied to a stake or drugged before they are shot. But whatever method is used, the defining characteristic of a canned hunt is that the odds have been artificially manipulated against the animal so heavily that the notion of fair chase is subverted. (Michael Markarian)

Anecdotal evidence strongly suggests another outlet for unwanted tigers is canned hunts. This is where they are fenced into a corner and hunters who pay up to $25,000 are guaranteed to be able to shoot a tiger. The cats are kept hungry before the shoot and  will approach people for food which makes it easier to kill them. In one video of a lion canned hunt, a lioness is drawn into close range by luring her with her own cubs, then shot.

More advanced variations of canned hunts provide remote controlled guns that can be focused and fired from your computer in the convenience of your home or office.

There is no federal law governing canned hunting operations. The Animal Welfare Act does not regulate game ranches, hunting preserves or canned hunts. The Endangered Species Act does not prohibit private ownership of endangered animals and even allows for the hunting of endangered species with the appropriate permit.

This is considered a sport and is legal in this country.




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